JEFFERSON CITY — Embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens issued a vague press release Thursday to outline a tax plan he hyped days earlier as the nation's "boldest," a muted rollout Democrats said proves the Republican's administration has been disrupted by his acknowledgment of an affair and allegations of blackmail.
The first-term governor pledged "the boldest state tax reform in America" during last Wednesday's State of the State address and was planning a tour of the state this week to promote it. But after the speech, St. Louis television station KMOV reported Greitens had an extramarital affair with his hairdresser in 2015 and more lurid allegations.
The governor admitted being unfaithful to his wife but later denied the woman's claim to her now ex-husband, recorded without her knowledge, that Greitens took a partially nude photo of her and threatened to release it if she spoke about their relationship.
Greitens' press release on the tax plan offers few specifics. He said he wants to cut taxes for those earning more than about $9,000 a year, which covers most Missourians, but doesn't detail by how much. He also said he wants to eliminate taxes for 380,000 low-income workers, but didn't explain how.
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat, said in a statement that the general plan, offering "no details on how he will achieve this magical feat sounds more like the desperation play of an administration in danger of collapsing from scandal than a serious policy proposal."
"Until Eric Greitens stops hiding and, in his own words, offers a full and detailed public denial of the allegations that he threatened his former mistress, Missourians won't hear anything else he says," she wrote.
The governor promised more information in the coming weeks. His spokesman, Parker Briden, said Greitens still is finalizing details of the plan.
"We're cutting taxes on people that work hard so they can keep more money in their pocket. And we're doing it in a responsible, revenue-neutral way so we don't put our children in debt," Greitens said in a statement. "It's the boldest state tax reform in America because it's tax reform for working families – not lobbyists and special interests."
In his press release, Greitens said his other goals include lowering corporate taxes, ending "loopholes that primarily benefit big businesses and high earners" and ensuring tax changes are revenue neutral.
Some fellow Republicans in the Legislature had called the affair a "distraction" from tax policy, which legislative leaders have also outlined as a top goal this session.
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said shortly before Greitens unveiled his tax-cut plan that he is concerned about the effect of a large tax cut on the state's finances. Unlike in some other states, Richard noted that Missouri lawmakers cannot later raise taxes without going to a vote of the people if they discover that a tax cut has drained too much state revenue.
"I'm very cautious about tax increases and tax decreases," he added. "I'm just going to make sure that if there is a tax cut, there's an appropriate amount of spending cut to make sure we don't end up in a tax situation or revenue problem."