JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After Gov. Eric Greitens first State of the State speech — which can be read here — Democratic leadership in the House and Senate wondered how Greitens would pay for many of his proposals, especially since he did not go into detail about his budget priorities.
“Breaking with generations of past practice, the governor failed to present his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year,” Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty said in a statement. “In fact, the governor spent more time talking about hair braiding than he did explaining how he will pay for public education, transportation, health care and other essential state services in the coming fiscal year. A State of the State address with no budget plan is a meaningless rhetorical exercise, not a display of leadership.”
Assistant Minority Floor Leader Gina Mitten added with Missouri’s budget woes, it made little sense to propose new spending.
“To have a State of the State with no budget and instead a bunch of proposals that are going to cost us dollars, a day after literally kicking kids off of a school bus, is problematic,” she said.
When asked if the state could sustain additional programs in the face of the budget crunch Missouri is currently experiencing, Beatty said the people of Missouri could look to Kansas to see what was in store for the Show-Me State.
“This is just a slower bus to Kansas,” Mitten added. “That’s all that we are on, but trust me, the destination is exactly the same.”
One of Greitens’ other major points during the speech was his commitment to law enforcement and preventing events like the Ferguson unrest from occurring again. Beatty noted Democratic proposals to fix some of the underlying causes of the unrest, like mistrust between communities and law enforcement as well as the small portion of police officers that misuse and abuse their power, had gone unnoticed by the Republican Legislature and now by Greitens.
“I am still concerned we are not addressing the underlying issues that caused Ferguson, until we do that, we really haven’t solved any of those problems,” she said. “We all respect our police officers and want to protect them, but we have not addressed those issues as to why we had Ferguson.“
Beatty’s Senate counterpart, Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh used her statement to re-emphasize Democratic opposition to right-to-work legislation making its way through the House and Senate. She pointed to the fact Missouri led all surrounding states in manufacturing growth last year and the state’s record employment numbers achieved under former Gov. Jay Nixon.
“These are important points to make, because behind every one of those statistics is a hardworking, real person, who is trying to make ends meet. They’re raising families, saving for college and trying to live a good life,” she said. “That’s why it’s up to all of us who serve in elected office – from the General Assembly all the way to the governor’s office – to respect these workers, to stand with these workers, and to protect them from government overreach and bureaucratic meddling.”
Beatty added that right-to-work should go before voters.
Conservatives pleased with Greitens’ first remarks
On the other hand, Republicans and the business community praised Greitens’ speech.
Missouri Republican Party Chairman Todd Graves said Greitens had upheld his campaign promise of taking the state in a new direction.
“Missouri now has a Governor who isn’t afraid to make tough decisions as he forges the path to a balanced budget, economic prosperity for businesses and families and strong support for our law enforcement officers,” Graves said. “Not only do I commend Governor Greitens on his leadership, I am honored to work alongside him as we continue to take Missouri in a positive direction for all people.”
Missouri Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dan Mehan was even more complimentary, especially given the fact the Missouri Chamber was one of the few organizations to support Greitens during his election.
“We knew we were backing someone who would do what he said and follow through,” he said. “We had that confidence in Eric and this is perfect evidence to see that… We’re very confident and we’re optimistic about the prospects.”
Additionally, he also credited Greitens for promoting a “pro-business agenda,” especially with mentioning right-to-work and tort reform efforts like the collateral source rule change and the adoption of Daubert expert witness standards early in his speech.