JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Thursday stoutly defended his tax-cut plan and threw cold water on the idea of having voters decide on a proposed increase in the gas tax to help close the state’s funding gap for roads and bridges.
Also, the governor continued to refuse to answer a key question related to his recently admitted extramarital affair: whether he took pictures during the encounters. That’s central to accusations – denied by him – that he threatened to blackmail the woman.
“Actually … we have answered all of those questions,” Greitens asserted.
The Republican governor spoke to publishers and editors from across the state during a lunch at the Governor’s Mansion. He pushed hard for his tax-cut plan, which legislative leaders so far have not embraced.
“”We’re going to be rewarding companies that actually are investing in Missouri,” he said.
Greitens wants to cut the corporate income tax rate by 30 percent, individual income taxes by more than 10 percent, establish a “working family tax credit” and phase out the federal income tax deduction. The governor says the tax bill for 380,000 Missourians would go to zero.
Those cuts would be on top of the Missouri income tax cut that took effect this year under previous legislation as well as reductions in state revenue – estimated at $60 million a year by the University of Missouri – because of the recent federal tax cut and the fact that Missouri tax rates are linked to federal rates.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway on Thursday said the state’s finances are getting shakier and headed toward the troubles seen in Kansas, where tax cuts from years ago have been reversed when projected growth did not occur and the state got into a budget jam. She said Missouri is poorly prepared to handle an economic downturn and said finding, for instance, $500 million in added revenue would require 168,000 new jobs at average wages – more than the number of every unemployed Missourian today, which she put at 116,000 as of September.
Greitens fired back.
“We are 100 percent confident in our analysis, and the auditor’s math is wrong,” he said.
He added another jab at the Democratic auditor.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Democrats are opposed to tax cuts,” he said.
The governor also waved off the suggestion by a statewide task force that Missourians vote on a 10-cent increase in the state’s gas tax, and 12 cents for diesel, to fund roads and bridges and get back some of the state’s buying power lost to inflation in the three decades since the last change in the tax. It’s still early in the legislative session, and legislators from Eastern Jackson County have said it’s hard to say if the General Assembly will put that on the ballot this year.
The governor doesn’t favor the idea.
“I think what needs to happen this year is engage with our (tax) plan,” he said, adding that the road-and-bridge issue could go to voters at some point in the future.