State of the State: Missouri
Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, the second-youngest serving governor in the U.S., presented an ambitious agenda in his first State of the State address. Highlights of his speech include enacting right-to-work legislation, decreasing regulations, shrinking government and reforming the tax code. His laser-sharp focus on pro-growth fiscal reforms to enhance Missouri’s economic competitiveness place Governor Greitens in the running for our annual “best of the best” competition, the results of which will be announced once all governors have given their speeches.
An author, humanitarian and former Navy SEAL, Governor Greitens is considered a political “outsider” elected to change the status quo in the Show Me State. He has already signed an executive order banning gifts from lobbyists to executive branch employees and is calling on the legislature to pass term limits for every statewide officeholder.
Additionally, Missouri will likely be the 28th state to enact right-to-work legislation, which would prohibit forced-union membership as a condition of employment. Governor Greitens noted the average Missouri family would be making an additional $2,400 per year if income growth had risen at the same rate as the rest of the country since 2009. He blames forced-union membership as well as burdensome regulations. One such regulatory burden is occupational licensing, which, for example, requires 1500 hours of expensive training in order to obtain a hair braiding license. He has signed an executive order putting a freeze on all new regulations and has ordered a holistic view of current regulations:
Over the course of the last 17 years, Missouri has issued over 40,000 pages of new regulations. If you laid those pieces of paper end to end, that’s over 5 miles of new regulations. These regulations, and those that come down from Washington, cost people money.
Greitens highlighted the issues of overregulation and right-to-work specifically when discussing the need for quality, high-paying jobs. He also referenced government jobs and the need to engage in civil service reform, noting the percentage of Missourians employed by state government dwarfs that of other states – double that of Indiana, for example. “Because of this, we are 50th out of 50 in state employee pay,” explained the governor. He wants the state “focused on doing fewer things but doing them well.”
In addition to shrinking the size of government and ridding Missourians of the state’s burdensome regulatory structure, Governor Greitens plans “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.” In other words, he plans to rid the state of special interest tax credits. Greitens clearly understands these carve-outs benefit only politically well-connected industries or businesses; often ignored are the unseen costs and foregone growth for the remainder of the state.
The governor’s simple logic,such as retiring debt prior to funding additional budgetary items, is a breath of fresh air to Missouri. The hardworking taxpayers of Missouri could see a great deal of free-market changes in Jefferson City this year.