Republican Governor Eric Greitens offered few surprises with the issues he mentioned in his State of the State address Tuesday night.
He reiterated much of the conservative and business friendly agenda he articulated in his inaugural speech earlier in the month.
Those priorities included boosting the economy and job growth by placing restrictions on unions and curbing liability lawsuits. He also pledged to roll back regulations and oversee ethics reform.
Republican state Senator Will Kraus of Lee’s Summit thinks Greitens stayed true to his campaign promises. “I think this is what he talked about on the campaign” said Kraus. “When he went around the state talking to Missourians, he said ‘These are the things I want to focus on’. And not surprising to me is that he’s saying that these are the things he’s going to work on in Jefferson City.”
Democratic Senator Gina Walsh of Bellefontaine Neighbors was concerned by what Greitens didn’t mention, specifically transportation.
“That really surprised me because our infrastructure in the state of Missouri is falling in on itself” said Walsh. The highways are in deplorable shape. The bridges in this state that need repair number in the thousands.”
Even though it was left out of his address, Walsh hopes Greitens will make transportation one of his priorities. “I’ll really be disappointed if it isn’t. Because I know that, for members from both sides of the aisle in both chambers, for years it has been a priorities of theirs.”
Walsh also expressed frustration Greitens failed to address the budget, even though he previously said he would deal with that issue next month. She fears the delay will force lawmakers to rush through the process and make mistakes.
One of the few surprises in Greitens speech occurred when he addressed state worker pay. While acknowledging Missouri has the lowest paid employees in the country, he seemed to suggest a solution would be to downsize the workforce.
“We need to reward the greatest in government service with better pay” said Greitens. “That’s how a good business would run. We’d pay and promote our best people and make sure they know they are valued. And we’d have a government focused on doing fewer things, but doing them well. That’s how we’ll be able to pay our star performers what they deserve.”
Republican Kraus agrees with the sentiment that government jobs need to be reduced, especially in departments such as education.
“My question is why do we have 1,500 employees in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. I would rather have that money going to classrooms than up here in Jefferson City in bureaucrats that are overseeing something, and not providing a good to the people in the district.”
In his speech, Greitens said Missouri has nearly twice the number of state jobs per capita as neighboring Illinois.
Walsh, who is the Senate Minority Floor Leader, thinks the state workforce has already been depleted by her fellow Democrat, Governor Jay Nixon, who she contends made deep personnel cuts during his eight years in office.
“My constituents felt it. They felt it in the services that they receive within the district, and that’s where it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt the people of the state of Missouri. And it’s going to hurt the people that rely on those jobs.”
Walsh is a strong advocate for labor. She was hardly surprised the biggest ovation from lawmakers during Greitens address came when he mentioned right to work legislation She noted Republicans dominate the legislature, and have been trying to pass a right to work law for years. Such a measure would allow opt out of paying union dues.