Governor Eric Greitens’ first State of the State address sticks largely to traditional Republican fashion by saying Missouri’s economy can grow if changes are made to the state’s workforce and unions, education and liability lawsuits against businesses. Not so GOP-style was his call for reigning in on special interest tax credits. Some of the top takeaways from his speech include:
Increasing state worker pay by having fewer state employees
Greitens says Missouri’s best state employees are hurting by way of a big bloated bureaucracy. Missouri’s state workers receive an average base salary of $38,000 a year – making them the lowest paid in the nation.
“We need to change that. Our government employees do important work—often really important, life-saving work. We need to reward the greatest in government service with better pay,” says Greitens. “This is 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.”
Passing Right to Work legislation
Greitens says Missouri must join 27 other states and pass so-called Right to Work legislation, which would bar workers from being required to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
“That’s why we must do away with expensive Project Labor Agreements that drive up the costs of construction and slow down important projects in our communities,” says Greitens. “We must repeal our state’s version of the Davis-Bacon act, which drives up the cost of important construction work that needs to get done. It hurts rural workers. It sets back rural families.”
The Missouri House is expected to consider this week Sikeston Republican state Rep. Holly Rehder’s Right to Work proposal. With a Republican governor in office for the first time since 2009, GOP state lawmakers feel optimistic about such legislation passing sooner rather than later. Unions are expected to come out in droves opposing such proposals.
Changing Missouri’s tax structure
Greitens says “insiders are gaming this system.” Since 2010, he says nearly $2 billion has been promised to special interests.
“What our people want is a tax structure that is simple, fair to everyone, and low. But instead we have a tax structure that is complex, corrupt, and high. Together, with a team of outsiders and legislators, we are going to do a thorough, end-to-end audit of our tax credit system—and create a tax code that works not to benefit privileged insiders, but instead is fair to all,” says Greitens.
Changing the way Missouri’s welfare system operates
Greitens drew some claps and smiles from both sides of the aisle when calling for changes to Missouri’s welfare system. He says the state needs a system based on two principles.
“It should always, always, always pay more to work in the state of Missouri. If your boss gives you a raise, you should make more money. I will work with all of you to build a system that lifts people out poverty and into the middle class, one based on hard work and personal responsibility,” says Greitens.
Greitens’ speech, which lasted about 45 minutes, did not mention the following:
Ways to help fund Missouri’s deteriorating roads and bridges
More than 600 of the state’s bridges are in critical condition, while at least one in 10 of Missouri’s major roads are in poor condition. The state legislature has failed to find a solution to help pay for Missouri’s growing infrastructure costs. Lawmakers agree that transportation funding must increase but they disagree on how to fund it. The state hasn’t increased its gas tax in 20 years and has one of the lowest fuel taxes in the nation.
How to move forward on the state’s number one industry – agriculture
Greitens has mentioned very little about his plans for Missouri agriculture. His campaign page says he believes agriculture can and should be a growth industry for Missouri. He has chosen Chris Chinn to head the Missouri Agriculture Department.
The Show Me State is home to more than 100,000 farms, covering two-thirds of the state’s total land acreage. A recent study says about 375,000 jobs are tied to Missouri agriculture and tax revenues are more than $6 billion a year.
2018 Fiscal Year budget proposal
As planned, Greitens did not include his FY18 budget proposal, which has traditionally been unveiled during the State of the State address. Greitens will release his spending plan during a separate address to the legislature in February. The 2017 fiscal year budget includes $27 billion with about $12.5 billion for social welfare programs and administration.
In a statement from House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City), she is disappointed that the governor didn’t lay out his spending plan for FY2018.
“Breaking with generations of past practice, the governor failed to present his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. 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,” says Beatty.
An honorable mention for not being mentioned is higher education. On Monday, Greitens announced $146 million in state budget restrictions with about $80 million coming from higher education.
Greitens, however, says he wants to increase K-12 teacher salaries and create savings accounts for students with special needs. He says kids with special needs could have IEPs, individualized education plans.
“With education savings accounts, parents are able to use their fair share of state education money in a way that fits with what their kids need,” says Greitens.
Greitens was sworn into office on January 9.