Governor Eric Greitens, R, has signed several budget bills and will let a statewide minimum wage bill become law without his signature. Missouri’s new state budget year begins tomorrow.
The Governor has signed House Bills 1-13, 17, and 18, the budget bills passed by the legislature to fund Missouri government for the next year.
Greitens has vetoed a bill, HCB 3, that he says asks the Commissioner of Administration to drain $35.4 million from various state funds into General Revenue to be used as a one-time “gimmick” to pay for other state programs.
Greitens says the bill was pushed through in the middle of the night with no public hearing. According to the governor, it exempted funds for tattoo artists (Tattoo Fund), interior designers (Interior Designer Council Fund), embalmers (Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors’ Fund), acupuncturists (Acupuncturist Fund), massage therapists (Massage Therapy Fund), and realtors (Real Estate Commission Fund) from the sweep.
“This bill would put funds for abused children, injured workers, and first responders in jeopardy, but protect funding for tattoo artists, interior designers, and realtors. Politicians cherry-picked their desired funds to protect, while the most vulnerable Missourians were left holding the bag,” says Greitens. “I put money in the budget to protect the most vulnerable Missourians. The House did their job. The Senate failed. This was a clearly unconstitutional, last-minute budget gimmick. I won’t sign an unconstitutional, one-time, fake fix to a real problem.”
State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, says Greitens’s veto of HCB3 will harm more than 8,000 low income seniors, veterans and people living with disabilities and minor health care issues.
“HCB 3 was designed to extend community-based services for people living at home who need just a little bit of help to be able to stay in their homes. HCB 3 would transfer extra money from some of the 469 different state funds that contain unspent, excess revenue. Some of these fund balances have as much as $85 million in reserve. The $34 million cost of HCB 3 is less than 1% of the $3.6 billion that’s just sitting in these funds,” says Lavender. “In the long run, this decision will cost Missouri taxpayers more as people receiving these services will turn towards emergency rooms for the care they are no longer receiving and end up in nursing homes sooner than they would have if community-based services were left in place.
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, who has praised Greitens on a few occasions, isn’t handing out a warm response this time.
Neither surprised nor amused at the Governor’s recent political stunt! Question: What are we Dems going to do about it? #LetsFight
— Jamilah Nasheed (@SenatorNasheed) June 30, 2017
The Governor will let a controversial minimum wage bill go into law automatically on August 28th without his signature. The measure prevents Missouri cities from setting minimum wages above the state’s wage level.
“The St. Louis politicians who did this claim it will help people. It’ll hurt them. This increase in the minimum wage might read pretty on paper, but it doesn’t work in practice. Government imposes an arbitrary wage, and small businesses either have to cut people’s hours or let them go. They tried this in Seattle. The minimum wage went up, and the results are heartbreaking: the average worker in the city lost $125 a month. That’s $1,500 a year because jobs were lost and hours were cut. Liberals say these laws help people. They don’t. They hurt them,” says Greitens.
The governor goes on to say that “politicians in the legislature dragged their feet for months” to find a solution on the issue.
“Now, because of their failures, we have different wages across the state. It’s created uncertainty for small businesses. And it all could have been avoided if the politicians had done their job on time,” says Greitens. “I disapprove of the way politicians handled this. That’s why I won’t be signing my name to their bill.”
The Governor has also signed SB 139, a bill that helps low-income Missourians pay for their prescription drugs. The entire MORx program was scheduled to expire in August 2017. Greitens’ action will extend the MORx program until at least 2022 for more than 182,000 Missourians.
Greitens has signed a controversial tort measure into law. He says a workplace discrimination bill, known as SB 43, brings standards for lawsuits in Missouri in line with 38 other states and the federal government.
The measure would require employees to prove that race, religion, sex or another protected status was the motivating factor for discrimination or for being fired. Punitive damages would largely be eliminated from being awarded, with limits mostly being held to actual damages. The measure would also stop workers from suing their colleagues.
“Tort reform is important. We need to prevent trial lawyers from killing good jobs,” says Greitens. “I’ve met with passionate advocates on both sides of SB 43. I respect all of them. I’ve listened to every side. I believe we need to bring Missouri’s standards in line with 38 other states and the federal government.”
Greitens says due to lower than expected tax receipts from 2016 and rising healthcare costs, he is restricting more than $250 million in the 2018 fiscal year budget. Those restrictions are detailed here: https://oa.mo.gov/budget-planning/budget-information/2018-budget-information
“We were sent here to make tough decisions. That’s what we’re doing. Politicians were trying to spend money we don’t have. So we’re left with two choices: raise taxes or cut spending. I will not raise your taxes,” says Greitens.