As Greitens touts tax cut proposal, he declines to get behind fuel tax increase | St. Louis Public Radio

As Greitens touts tax cut proposal, he declines to get behind fuel tax increase

Feb 8, 2018

Gov. Eric Greitens reiterated Thursday that his plan to cut the state’s tax will not be paired with a fuel tax increase.

The governor’s comments to members of the Missouri Press Association come as both Republicans and Democrats are getting behind the idea of raising taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel to pay for fixing the state’s roads and bridges.

Greitens’ tax cut plan includes reductions in Missouri’s income and corporate taxes. It also includes substantially paring down popular tax breaks, including a deduction for federal income taxes and a 2 percent discount businesses get for turning in their withholding taxes on time.

But unlike other legislative tax cut proposals, Greitens told reporters he won’t include fuel tax hikes in his plan.

“As you saw in our tax plan, we are not planning to raise the gas tax. We are not planning to raise the diesel tax in our plan,” Greitens said. “I think what needs to be done this year is to engage in our plan or some version of it that will help to cut taxes for 97 percent of Missourians.”

Any substantial gas or diesel tax increase would likely have to go to Missouri voters. Greitens didn’t necessarily rule out the idea of a fuel tax increase going to a statewide vote in the future.

“I think the work that has to be done this year is to get a worker’s first tax cut passed so that we can help 380,000 of the hardest working Missourians across the state,” he said. “And the fact is in future years, absolutely the people of Missouri should have a say.”

The governor’s comments weren’t well received by some lawmakers angling to shore up funds for roads and bridges.

“Let me ask this: If we can’t even build roads and bridges anymore, then what the hell are we doing here in Jefferson City?” said state Rep. Greg Razer, a Democrat from Kansas City who was on a task force that recommended a fuel tax increase. “Hopefully the General Assembly can lead on this issue —because obviously Eric Greitens isn’t interested in that job.”

During his news conference, Greitens noted that his proposed budget includes more money for transportation projects. But lawmakers have expressed wariness about that idea.

Here’s what else Greitens told reporters at his press conference:

  • He said he hasn’t been contacted by any law enforcement or prosecutors regarding his 2015 extramarital affair. “We’ve answered all those questions and you know that the answer is no,” he said. The governor has admitted to having an affair before he was governor, but denied he took a photo of the woman to keep her from revealing the infidelity.
  • He said he’s been “working really closely” with lawmakers to get a tax cut passed before the end of session, May 11. The governor said he’s had great meetings with GOP senators Andrew Koenig, Wayne Wallingford, Mike Cierpiot and Mike Kehoe. “In fact, we’ll work with anybody who shares our vision of more jobs and higher pay and putting money into the pockets of the people of Missouri,” Greitens said.
  • Regarding Missouri’s budget, Greitens said the situation is “much better than it was last year.” But he said that he had to “make tough choices,” including further cuts to colleges and universities. “Our priority was to make sure that our kids in our K-12 classrooms were getting all the funding that they needed,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we were taking care of the most vulnerable children in the foster care system. So we invested an extra $29 million in that program.”
  • He said that his administration worked “really closely” with a number of higher education leaders. “I’ve been really pleased with the work [University of Missouri System President Mun] Choi has been doing,” Greitens said. “Outside consultants came in, looked at the University of Missouri system and identified $70 million a year in administrative savings that could be taken. And that was just looking at the University of Missouri system.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum