Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ relationship with the media has had its ups and downs.
Greitens has willingly answered questions from reporters, provided that those questions directly correspond with the topic of the news conference, and has agreed on a few occasions to exclusive interviews. He generally announces things directly to the public on Facebook and Twitter videos, seldom disseminating it to reporters ahead of time.
On Thursday, he stood in front of a gaggle of media in his office for his first any-question-goes news conference since he was sworn in Jan. 9. It was part of the Missouri Press Association/Associated Press Day at the Capitol, when leaders of the state’s top agencies address the media. Attorney General Josh Hawley was scheduled to take part, but Lt. Gov. Mike Parson took his place.
Reporters asked Greitens wide-ranging questions, and including some about his proposed $146 million in cuts to higher education. He said he plans to meet with college and university presidents next week.
“I think it’s imperative that we keep tuition down for Missouri students,” the governor said. “There was over $700 million that politicians were planning to spend that we just didn’t have in the bank and that means that higher education is going to get less money than expected.”
He also commented on St. Louis’ proposal for a partially publicly financed Major League Soccer stadium, which will be on the April 4 ballot. Greitens reiterated his stance that he doesn’t support using taxpayer money, but said he’s willing to work with those bringing private investments to the state of Missouri in order to bring in more jobs.
Greitens ended the 30-minute session with a statement that praised the media for informing the public but made no comments regarding future Capitol news conferences.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft discussed the voter ID law, which he plans to have in place by the August election. The law, which will require voters to show ID before voting, takes effect in June.
The state is still trying to figure out how to pay for the free IDs. Opponents of the law say that such laws disproportionately affect minorities, but Ashcroft called it a “common sense way to help protect the ballot box” that will not keep anyone who is eligible from voting.
Auditor Nicole Galloway, the only Democrat that holds statewide office, asserted that the state is in a budget crisis and that her office has “identified more than $130 million in government waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement” as well as over 30 criminal charges against corrupt public officials.
“I am tough, fair, and thorough,” said Galloway, who is up for re-election in 2018. “That’s what people want out of the only independent watchdog this state has.”
Currently, she is auditing the legal expense fund for lawsuits of harassment and discrimination and is also working to monitor a tax law discrepancy that her office claimed was more than $100 million off.
Parson was the unexpected speaker of the day. Hawley’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment as to why he canceled his news conference.
Parson began by commending the importance of media but asking reporters to be accurate and not to misquote.
“One thing that probably always disappoints me is if I say a quote and, in today’s time with recording devices and everything else, the quote’s wrong,” Parson said.
But Parson, despite requests from reporters, didn’t speak into the microphone.
He was asked about the request for at least $50,000 to remodel his office. He said that money is set aside every year for Capitol renovations and that the project had been in the works before he took office.
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