State of the State 2018: Governor outlines priorities, leaves out the budget

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In his second State of the State address, the Governor of Missouri promised to continue fighting for the people of Missouri.

Speaking to a room packed with state Senators and Representatives, Gov. Eric Greitens mostly stuck to traditional Republican talking points, promising to cut regulations, decrease the size of the government, create job and — of course — cut taxes.

There was no mention of the budget for the second year in a row, an item normally seen as a centerfold to the speech. Greitens once again talked of supporting veterans and police officers, ethics reform and foster care.

“With your help, we will lower taxes for working families and make it easier for businesses to come to Missouri and create jobs,” Greitens said on Wednesday night. “And we will do it in a way that is fiscally sound, maintains sour state’s triple-A credit rating, and does not burden our children with debt.”

Early next week, the governor will lay out a detailed plan on taxes. Greitens said that it will be “the boldest state tax reform in America.”

Greitens blasted over regulation, citing that the states regulatory requirements grew at a faster rate than federally since 2002.

According to Greitens, outdated regulations “waste money, waste time” and are “like plaque in the arteries of Missouri’s economy.”

“Because of this, we launched the most aggressive, most thorough, most ambitious effort to roll back unnecessary regulations in the United States,” Greitens said. “By taking a strong, thoughtful, conservative approach to government, we can tell you tonight that we are taking nearly one out of every three regulatory requirements in the state of Missouri — that’s 33,000 regulatory requirements — off the books for good.”

The governor has also spent much of the last year working to shrink the size of government so that the state of Missouri is operating at its smallest level in the past two decades.

“Today, I’m proud to tell you that we continue to shrink the size of government,” the governor said, citing several cost saving efforts that have been made.

“We promised we’d fight for your jobs, and we are,” Greitens said. “The most important thing we can do for Missouri families is to make it easier for those without jobs to find them and make sure that those who have jobs keep them. Over the past year, we have devoted the energy and attention of our office to putting Missourians back to work.”

Missouri has the lowest unemployment rate it’s had in 17 years. Since last March, the state has outpaced the nation in job growth.

“We have a lot of work left to do,” Greitens said after recognizing that many in the state still struggle.

Greitens once again called for a lobbyist gift ban to be passed in the legislature. A bill is moving through the House and could be sent to the sent as early as next week.

“In the meantime, I have a simple request: I call on every member of the legislature to join me in a pledge not to accept any gift from lobbyists.”

The governor called on the General Assembly to pass a bill allowing employers to establish a veterans’ hiring preference.

“Right now, in the state of Missouri, a small business owner who declares that he or she wants to hire veterans can be sued,” Greitens said. “That’s wrong.”

Following the address the following statements were issued:

“I believe the Governor did a terrific job sharing with Missourians the positive steps our state has taken to grow quality jobs, and I’m proud of the work done by the General Assembly to foster economic growth,” Speaker of the House Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said. “The House has a strong desire to work on tax reform that reduces the burden for working families and I look forward to the Governor laying out his plan in the coming weeks.  With the positive response we have seen to the passage of the recent federal tax reform legislation, we are confident Missouri will see the same positive reception for tax reform on the state level.”

“Democrats believe government should work for all Missourians to maximize opportunities and provide support for individuals and families who work hard and play by the rules. But the rules set by state government must be fair and apply equally to all Missourians,” House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty said in the Democrats’ response. “When there is one set of rules for most Missourians and another, more favorable, set of rules for those who can afford to hire lobbyists and make big campaign contributions, it erodes Missourians’ confidence that they will get a fair shake. Governor Greitens markets himself as a political outsider dedicated to cleaning up state government. During his first year in office, however, Governor Greitens’ administration has been stained by ethical failings, disdain for the law and a complete lack of transparency.”

“A State of the State address without a budget proposal is like a cheeseburger without the burger or the cheese – everything important is missing,” Assistant House Minority Leader Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, said. “By failing to tell Missourians how he plans to spends billions of dollars of their money, Eric Greitens engaged in an empty rhetorical exercise instead of establishing a vision for Missouri in the coming year. Until we know how the governor plans to pay for public schools, repairing our crumbling roads and bridges and caring for the elderly and disabled, Missourians can only guess at his real priorities.”

“Missouri’s economic trajectory has risen since Gov. Eric Greitens took office last year. The General Assembly can help sustain this success by following last year’s productive legislative session with a continued effort toward meaningful state tax reform,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber President and CEO. “Missouri’s inconsistent tax structure has been a frustrating impediment to business growth for far too long. On behalf of our state’s business community, I would like to thank Gov. Greitens for making tax reform a priority. We will work with the General Assembly to advocate for this becoming a reality in 2018.”

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.