“He doesn’t have any allies in the Missouri Senate right now and that is something he is going to have to work in a very intentional way to fix,” Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) said.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is bereft of friends in the General Assembly, making his budget “dead on arrival” and endangering a once-in-a-generation chance for Republicans to enact their agenda, state Sen. Caleb Rowden said Tuesday.
In a breakfast gathering hosted by the Show Me Institute, Rowden (R-Columbia) was asked his thoughts on Greitens, who was plagued by a bad relationship with lawmakers before his marital infidelities sparked a criminal investigation of whether he had threatened a woman with releasing nude photos if she told anyone about their relationship.
“He doesn’t have any allies in the Missouri Senate right now and that is something he is going to have to work in a very intentional way to fix,” Rowden said.
Republicans hold a 24-9 edge in the state Senate, with one vacant seat, a 115-47 edge in the Missouri House with one vacancy and five of the six constitutional statewide offices. That gives them a “generational opportunity” to enact a conservative agenda, Rowden said. Friction between the executive and the legislature and poor performance in Greitens’ office is endangering that opportunity, he said.
“At some point you have to govern and that is the one thing they as a team haven’t figured out yet,” Rowden said.
In his budget proposal, Greitens recommended cutting appropriations to state colleges and universities by 10 percent and he is proposing new spending on foster care and a matching program for local road projects, among other ideas.
“I thought his budget was, frankly, a bit lazy,” Rowden said.
The state is pinched financially by slow revenue growth and that means cuts in one place to fund other priorities, Rowden said. The proper way to do that is by scrutinizing spending in every program to find dollars that can be saved, he said.
“As opposed to kind of taking the short cut, which in our budget is to take money from higher education or take money from K-12 education, and then throw it to a bunch of new shiny new programs,” Rowden said.
Greitens chose higher education to find money this time, he said.
“Taking money from big kids is easier than taking money from little kids,” he said. “That’s the political reality that you deal with.”
Greitens’ office did not respond to an email seeking comment on Rowden’s remarks. Last week, appearing before editors and publishers gathered in Jefferson City, Greitens defended his budget choices. He said the budget sets a priority for local infrastructure projects, public schools and vulnerable children.
“Other people have different priorities and other people may see things differently,” Greitens said.
Colin McCarty, who asked the question about Rowden’s views of the governor, said after the breakfast that he was conflicted in his own feelings about Greitens. McCarty said he voted for Greitens but doesn’t like that he publicly attacks Republicans who disagree with him.
The character issues raised by his sexual relationship and other matters also raise doubts about Greitens, McCarty said.
“It does matter who somebody is, ultimately,” he said.
During his talk, Rowden said he wants lawmakers to enact a tax plan to support highways, either asking voters for a direct fuel tax increase or by an indirect sales tax to support the Missouri State Highway Patrol and free fuel tax money for highway work. Greitens said last week that he opposes a fuel tax hike.
He also noted Greitens’ failed push to put Missouri on the list of finalists for Amazon’s new headquarters. If Missouri had somehow landed the project, Rowden said, the state doesn’t have the 20,000 trained personnel needed and would have trouble providing 5,000.
Greitens’ budget proposal means Missouri will continue to have difficulty providing a highly-trained technical workforce because higher education lacks resources, Rowden said.
His remarks about Greitens shouldn’t be taken as a personal attack, Rowden added.
“I bear him no ill will but he has made a lot of missteps,” he said.