In a flurry of bill-signings and statements, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens cut the wages of thousands of Missouri workers, made it easier to discriminate, blocked help for some 8,000 elderly and disabled residents, hammered Missouri’s beleaguered universities, cut Medicaid payments to health care providers and slashed spending for a department charged with protecting children.
“We were sent here to make tough decisions. That’s what we’re doing,” Greitens said in a statement.
He was doing nothing of the sort, of course.
Punishing Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens — children, the elderly, the poor — isn’t tough. It’s the behavior of a bully governor, insensitive to the needs of anyone except himself and his outsized political ambitions.
Greitens’ decision on the minimum wage is particularly egregious. A bill prohibiting St. Louis and Kansas City from raising minimum wages above the state level will become law without the governor’s signature.
The decision means thousands of minimum-wage earners in St. Louis will take a pay cut Aug. 28. A scheduled increase in Kansas City won’t take place, and the impact of an August vote on the wage is in doubt.
In a statement notable for its twisted logic, Greitens insisted his non-signature will actually help the Missourians facing a 23 percent cut in their paychecks. And it will help businesses, too: “We have different wages across the state,” he said. “It’s created uncertainty for small businesses.”
Please. Missouri, like all states, has always had different wages — it costs more to live in an urban area, and salaries are set accordingly. And any “uncertainty” over wages is the result of the governor’s own equivocation and that of other members of his party whose lack of respect for local decision-making is now crystal clear.
Greitens also signed a bill making it harder for employees to bring lawsuits for discrimination. Set aside the clear conflict of interest involved in drafting and passing the bill — any measure making it easier for employers to treat workers unfairly is troubling.
The governor rejected a bill designed to provide in-home and nursing home services for 8,000 elderly and disabled Missourians. The measure swept funds from other state programs to pay the bill.
We wish such a sweep had not been necessary. But it was because Missouri refuses to use its budget to protect those who need help.
Greitens cut another $36 million from the Department of Higher Education at a time when enrollments are in decline. He proposed a vague $30 million cut for the Department of Social Services, which oversees the state’s foster parent programs, Medicaid and family support efforts. He’ll pay Medicaid providers $12 million less.
None of this appears motivated by any real political philosophy. Instead, it’s aimed at raising the governor’s national profile among corporate donors attuned to his presidential dreams.
Sadly, Missouri’s vulnerable citizens will pay the price.