JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Republican Gov.-elect Eric Greitens plans to make budget cuts in addition to the more than $200 million that has already been slashed by the current governor, Greitens’ senior adviser said Thursday without providing details about how much money could be cut or what programs may be targeted.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon cut the budget for this fiscal year after it was approved by lawmakers, citing lagging revenue - particularly from corporate income taxes - and new tax breaks passed by the Legislature. But based on current revenue forecasts, Nixon’s cuts will not be enough to fully balance the budget, Greitens’ adviser Austin Chambers said.
“The revenue that is projected is not going to be enough to cover the budget that he (Nixon) signed,” Chambers told The Associated Press.
He said specific decisions have yet to be made on what areas of government might see cuts, and that details would be announced shortly after Greitens takes office next month. Nixon’s state budget director, Dan Haug, who helps oversee the budget and is working with Greitens’ transition team, did not return a request for comment Thursday from the AP.
Chambers noted the budget cuts during a conference call with reporters on Thursday to outline Greitens’ transition and plan to focus on jobs, ethics reform, public safety and “education reform” during the legislative session that begins Wednesday. The former Navy SEAL officer and political newcomer will succeed the term-limited Nixon during the Jan. 9 inauguration.
Chambers said Greitens will take questions next week from reporters during a statewide “thank you” tour, the first time he’ll do so since his Nov. 8 election. He also plans to announce his picks for chief operating officer, a new position he created, and public safety director. So far, he’s announced appointees for only the Department of Corrections and the Department of Agriculture.
Chambers on Thursday said Greitens’ top policy goals for the upcoming legislative session include signing a right-to-work bill that bans mandatory union fees if the legislation is passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Chambers also noted tort and regulatory reform, and helping veterans, for possible job-creation measures, though no specifics on measures to help veterans were provided.
Another priority is tightening ethics laws, which Greitens campaigned on heavily. He wants to ban lobbyist gifts and make elected officials wait longer before they can become lobbyists. Lawmakers this year approved a six-month waiting period for elected officials to become registered lobbyists after their terms end, but some want that extended to two years or longer.
Chambers said Greitens wants a “one-to-one” lobbying ban, meaning officials would have to wait a year to lobby for every year served in office. Greitens also wants to impose term limits for every statewide elected official.
To improve public safety, Greitens said he wants to increase penalties against people who assault police. He also supports creating a “Blue Alert” system to send out public emergency notices to help catch anyone who shoots an officer.
Chambers said Greitens is “seriously looking at” education savings accounts. For example, one lawmaker has proposed allowing taxpayers to put income tax refunds in a state investment program and to then pull money to pay for K-12 students’ tuition or other education expenses at public and private schools.
Chambers said the governor-elect “is committed to making sure that education revolves around the child, and that means making sure there is choice for that child’s education.”
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