JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – In his first address to Missouri’s General Assembly, Gov. Eric Greitens renewed his call to lead the Show-Me State in a new direction.
The political outsider’s first State of the State address consisted of a number of GOP reforms, while noticeably lacking any discussion of the state’s budget, typically a major item in any State of the State address.
Speaking before a room full of state representatives and senators on Tuesday night, the new governor continued to press the issues that he built his campaign on: ethics, public safety, tax credit reform, and jobs.
The Governor’s first acts after taking office were the signing of a number of executive orders, putting a freeze on new regulations, banning lobbyist gifts inside the executive office, and an order banning any employee from leaving to lobby.
The Governor acknowledged the work done by the legislature to address ethics reform but again called for more.
One of his key messages throughout the campaign was his promise to rid the Capitol of “corrupt career politicians.” Attempting to make good on his promise to clean up Jefferson City, the Governor called on the legislature to put term limits for each statewide office on the ballot, and let voters decide on the issue.
“I know that the people of Missouri will vote for term limits, and people are counting on us to put an end to politics as a lifelong profession,” Greitens said.
He also urged the legislature to work on “shutting the revolving door,” citing his proposed “cooling-off period” as the grounds on which that reform could be built.
“During the campaign, we came up with a simple proposal that the people supported. If you’ve been in a legislative office for one year, and you decide you want to become a lobbyist, you have to wait one year. If you’ve been in office for two years, then you have to wait two years—and so on,” he said. “This is a simple, sensible proposal, and I’m committed to working with you to close the revolving door.”
Right-to-Work and Jobs
On the campaign trail, the 42-year-old Republican vowed to sign right-to-work into effect, and in his speech, he continued to push forward right-to-work, citing a 10 percent private sector job growth nationwide since 2009.
“If we had grown just as fast as the rest of the country since ‘09, we would have 120,000 more jobs in Missouri today,” Greitens said. “And if income in Missouri had risen at the same rate as the rest of the country, the average Missouri family would be making $2,400 more every year. Instead, we’ve fallen behind. That’s why we must join 27 other states and sign Right-to-Work.”
Greitens said that Missourians are ready to grow and build the economy and create jobs, but says they need reform to do so.
“We will eliminate these ineffective and outdated laws,” he said.”And we will tap into the ingenuity and hard work of Missourians because Missourians are ready to work.
Tax Credit Reform
The Governor also called for an audit of the state’s “burdensome, complex, and unfair tax credit system.”
If special interest tax credits made for a prosperous economy, Missouri would be thriving,” he said. “What our people want is a tax structure that is simple, fair to everyone, and low.”
Greitens said they will audit the tax credit system with a team of outsiders and legislators, and create a fair tax code that works for everyone.
Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform
“Our judicial system is broken, and the trial lawyers who have broken it, well, their time is up,” Greitens said. “For too long in this state, trial lawyers have picked our people’s pockets. It’s time to do different.”
The Governor spoke on the issues facing Missourians, law enforcement, and the judicial system, saying that a number of common sense changes could fix some of the issues.
“We need a justice system that does justice by all of our people. As a constitutional conservative, I believe, as you do, that the constitution applies to every citizen,” he said. “We’re in a tough place in Missouri and we have to come together. We cannot go forward divided.”
Greitens said they will work with law enforcement to make sure they have the training and resources needed to do their jobs, as well as establish the Blue Alert system he has promised.
Greitens didn’t discuss much in terms of higher education but promised expanded course programs to be made available to grades K-12, as well as higher salaries for teachers.
“We also need to make sure that every child in Missouri, especially those kids with special needs, get a fair shot at the American Dream,” he said. “I will work with you to implement Education Savings Accounts for children with special needs.”
He finished by saying that Missouri does best when they “put power into the hands of parents and teachers at the local level.”
“Not every problem that we’re facing in the state of Missouri can be solved in the next week, the next month or the next year. But this agenda is a strong and bold start,” Greitens finished. “We have an opportunity to have a truly historic legislative session. Let’s heed the voice of the people and let’s take Missouri in a new direction.”
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.