- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - New Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens outlined plans to help grow jobs during his first State of the State address Tuesday, including passing a right-to-work law barring mandatory union fees and paring back government regulations.

“The people have sent us a message: We must do everything in our power to put people back to work in good, high-paying jobs,” the Republican Greitens said in a Capitol address to a joint session of the Republican-led House and Senate. “That is why we must join 27 other states and sign right to work.”

The proposal appears likely to be one of the first bills signed into law under Greitens, who replaced right-to-work opponent Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. Republican legislative leaders strongly support it, and GOP lawmakers stood and cheered when he called on them to send the policy to his desk. Democrats sat quietly.

“Right-to-work simply means forcing folks to work for less: less money, less health coverage and less opportunity for workers and their families,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh said in a prepared response.

Greitens on Tuesday also called for restrictions to liability lawsuits, to do away with pre-bid union labor agreements on public works projects that he said drive up costs, and an end to “burdensome regulations.”

The governor, who campaigned heavily on cleaning up the Capitol’s image, repeated support for a ban on lobbyist gifts to elected officials, a law requiring officials to wait before becoming lobbyists for as long as they’ve served in office and a ballot proposal for term limits for all statewide officeholders. Other policies Greitens touched on included plans for higher pay for fewer state employees, an audit of the state’s tax credit system to ditch “special interest tax credits” and “education savings accounts for children with special needs.”

In a call for increased public safety, he alluded to an armed robbery of his wife, Sheena, in December, as well as reaction to black 18-year-old Michael Brown’s fatal shooting by a white Ferguson officer in 2014. Greitens cited the so-called “Ferguson effect” - officers backing off of policing out of fear that their actions will be questioned after the fact - and pledged to push for tough penalties for those who assault police. He also said officers should be equipped with nonlethal equipment, such as stun guns, and that police standards and training need to be updated.

“Here’s what we have to do together: make this the greatest state in America to be a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or first responder,” Greitens said. “We need to make this a state where every citizen feels that they too are safe and protected.”

House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty said after the governor’s address that she’s “still concerned that we are not addressing the underlying issues that caused Ferguson.”

Greitens’ inauguration marked the first time in state history that Republicans hold supermajorities in the state House and Senate and control of the governor’s mansion. Republican legislative leaders share many of Greitens’ top policy priorities.

Republicans “are very excited about the opportunity to have a partner in the governor’s office,” House Speaker Todd Richardson said. He added that he was pleased with Greitens’ “focus on the economy and jobs here in our state,” particularly the need to grow wages.

Greitens didn’t outline his budget plan for next fiscal year Tuesday, as governors have done in the past. The House budget leader has said he expects a budget proposal from the governor in early February for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

“Quite frankly, we heard lots of proposals, lots of proposals that cost dollars,” McCann Beatty said. “At this point we still don’t have a budget, and I’m not sure how we’re going to pay for those proposals.”

Greitens, after just a week in office, took action Monday to cut spending he said was necessary to balance the budget. He announced about $146 million in spending cuts and said “more hard choices lie ahead.”

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