JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Governor Eric Greitens answered 8 questions on Facebook live Wednesday afternoon, handpicked from nearly 3,200 on his two posts. He spoke about Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, taxes on small businesses, funding for Missouri education, Real ID laws, attracting businesses to Missouri, financial problems of Mizzou, veterans issues, and rural internet access.
Among the top comments proposed by his constituents were on Sen. Chappelle-Nadal, protecting Confederate monuments, marijuana for medical use, funding for Missouri education, and perceived “hatred” from liberal Democrats. During his session on Facebook live, some of the top comments included remarks about drug tests for welfare recipients, protections from Anti-Fascist, shortened to Antifa, protestors, the NAACP travel advisory, and a perceived national favoritism for liberal Democrats.
Before every question, he would look to his laptop, read the name of the author of the question, and address the camera. During that time, he would give his explanation about the issue and how the issue will change in the future.
Regarding Sen. Chappelle-Nadal, Greitens condemned her rhetoric in what he called “a Facebook post,” though it was a comment on someone else’s post. The comment was deleted shortly after posting. He mentioned her defiance when both Missouri Republicans and Democrats called for her resignation. He said that even despite political disagreements, “we cannot have people calling for political violence,” and advocated that she should step down. If she did not, “I talked to the Lieutenant Governor, I’ve talked to Senate leadership, and if she does not resign, steps will be taken to remove her,” he forewarned.
He also took a question from a former veteran looking to start his own business, but felt he could not start his business because “the quagmire of local, county, and state requirements has [him] frightened and confused… [and he felt] trapped by some unknown ‘gotcha code,’ hiding away in some government vault. ” Greitens recounted his early commitments to cutting unnecessary regulations and advertised his website, which collects survey data.
Following his comments on cutting government regulatory services, Greitens was asked why he removed over a $100 million from the higher education budget and in the process asked, “what are you prioritizing over education?” He blamed the budget cuts on the previous administration, saying it was going to spend money that it didn’t have. So when he arrived in January, if the state was going to finance the liabilities, he’d have to either raise taxes or cut spending. He chose to cut spending at the cost of low taxes. He mentioned that he’d rather finance K-12 education over higher education.
He was asked about the Real ID laws – which notoriously prohibited Missourians from using drivers licenses as adequate forms of identification to board planes. In June, he signed the Real ID Act which allows Missourians to get a Real ID-compliant driver’s license – which allows people to use their licenses to get on commercial flights, but also allowed for citizens to get a license that does not comply with the federal stipulations – which does not.
Currently, Missourians have been exempt from the enforcement of Real ID Laws until October, but all Missourians will need Real ID-Compliant licenses before January. In his response to the question, he feels confident that Missourians will be able to use their state-issued identification as adequate forms of identification in 2018.
He was asked about the Missouri economy and right-to-work laws. He points to a Wallethub list which mentions the Show Me state among the top states to do business. He mentioned a Department of Economic Development study that found unemployment is low and job creation is high. He predicts “a number of jobs announcements over the course of the next couple of weeks,” where he outlined a strategy to attract businesses to Missouri. He insinuated that these successes and future success are because of Right to Work laws, but never explicitly said it.
He was then asked about the financial future of the University of Missouri. He lamented the problems the school faces, like low enrollment, but mentioned that his appointments to the Board of Curators are tasked with reversing the school’s financial problems. He also said hopes the new school president will help as well.
He was then asked about veteran health care. Specifically, the question was centered around preventing veteran suicide. His plan was centered around providing “purposeful work” and fighting substance abuse. He lamented that some military certifications do not meet the private company requirements and praised his veterans advocacy group “The Mission Continues,” which to help them reintegrate into society. His second part of the solution was to fight substance abuse as many veterans are overprescribed and develop dependencies on prescription drugs.
Finally, he mentioned his plan for rural internet access. For Greitens, it is important for businesses and schools in rural areas to have better internet access. He says he is working with private nonprofit groups to bring high-speed internet to rural Missouri.
This is his third Facebook live session during his time as Governor and has held only one news conference where he fielded general questions from Capitol reporters, raising questions whether he prefers to talk to his fans on Facebook or from journalists hired to report on state and government.
Michael Layer is a reporter for the Missouri Times and the Missouri Times Magazine. He joined the Missouri Times in August 2017 after graduating from Goucher College the previous May. To contact Michael, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @_MichaelLayer