ST. LOUIS – Attorney General and Democratic presumptive nominee for governor Chris Koster made a rare visit on the Mark Reardon Show on KMOX Thursday afternoon. Koster discussed his economic plans, what taxes would look like in a Koster administration and his transition to the Democratic Party nearly a decade later.
While Koster called for increases on some taxes, he also noted that he could see areas to lower taxes as well, especially in the corporate environment.
“We came to an agreement in 2014 that taxes on businesses should be 4.5 percent and we’re going to move there incrementally,” he said. “S Corps, LLCs, LPs, capital gains and dividends are all taxed at that level, but there are other entities that have been left out on the business side of 6.25 percent.
“There’s no reason why one business should pay 6.25 and another 4.5 just because they have incorporated under a different section of the IRS code.”
Still, Koster argued in favor of a cigarette tax increase and a gas tax increase, citing that they both should be bipartisan issues. He named Sens. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, and Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, as two Republicans who have fought vehemently for an increase to the gas tax through legislative means to provide a stream of revenue for the transportation industry.
He also relayed a story about former Gov. John Ashcroft, who he caught at a wedding recently. Ashcroft told him that while everyone knew he raised the gas tax in 1992 to its current level of 17 cents per gallon from 11 cents, Ashcroft had also raised the gas tax earlier in his term from seven cents per gallon to 11 cents. Koster argued that action would be effectively demonized by the modern Republican Party.
“[Ashcroft] said, ‘Do you know what conservatism means, Chris?… Conservatism means paying your debts and not passing your debts onto the next generation of Missourians,” he said. “John David Ashcroft, who looked the transportation issue square in the eye and solved it because that was the right thing to do for the state of Missouri, could not be elected to lead the Republican Party of 2016.”
It tied in with a few of Koster’s other points. When asked which Republican candidate he would like to face in the general election, Koster said he didn’t have a preference because their policies were “identical.” He added that the singular mission of Republicans to cut government was not healthy for the state as a whole.
“The Republican philosophy right now begins and ends with ‘If you strangle government, that’s good. If you strangle it harder, that’s better,’ ” he said. “Creating a balanced portfolio for economic growth means more than just small and efficient government. We have a small and efficient government in the state of Missouri… Reducing revenues has never made the coffers of the treasury grow.”
Koster argued more revenue could be used in K-12 education, especially since some school district now have such little funding they only attend school four days a week.
It also helped Koster explain his frustrations with the Republicans and why he became a Democrat. Although his disagreements with Republicans on stem cell research fueled the switch, he expressed his goals for the state as a conservative Democrat meant less ideological rigidity as he pointed to pro-labor Republicans who have come under attack from leadership and conservative donors across the state due to their opposition to right-to-work.
Reardon opened the show saying that he was skeptical Koster was really a Democrat, but when Reardon asked if Koster would endorse him as the Republican candidate for mayor of St. Louis, Koster demurred.
“I would endorse you for anything,” he said. “The problem is I don’t believe you’re really a Republican.”