Government & Politics

When Trump speaks in Missouri today, expect him to champion tax cuts, avoid details

President Donald Trump is to speak Wednesday afternoon at a manufacturing plant in Springfield, Mo.
President Donald Trump is to speak Wednesday afternoon at a manufacturing plant in Springfield, Mo.

President Donald Trump won’t give many concrete details Wednesday when he swings through Missouri to promote tax cuts, according to a briefing from White House officials.

Senior White House officials previewed the speech Tuesday ahead of Trump’s planned appearance at Springfield’s Loren Cook Co., which manufactures fans, blowers and laboratory exhaust systems.

Trump tweeted ahead of the speech Wednesday, saying “Will be leaving for Missouri soon for a speech on tax cuts and tax reform - so badly needed!”

The event, which is Trump’s first visit to the state as president, is closed to the public and comes as the city of Houston continues to struggle with the fallout of historic flooding caused by a tropical storm.

“This is a speech, but it’s about why we need tax reform,” one White House official said. “There aren’t going to be policy-specific details within it.”

The president also is expected to describe what he often calls “the American model,” according to the briefing. That model is “an economic philosophy that puts the interest of American workers and families first.”

Stephen Webber, the chair of the Missouri Democratic Party, said it’s strange that Trump would travel to Missouri during a time of crisis in Texas.

“I think he should absolutely refocus on the flooding,” Webber said. “... There’s a lot of Missourians who are down there as first responders trying to help with the situation.”

He called Trump’s visit to Springfield a circus.

Austin Stukins, the executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, defended the president’s decision to proceed with the visit despite the flooding in Texas.

“I think our president has to be able to wear many hats and be able to focus on many things throughout the course of his presidency and it just showcases the ability of our president to be very in-depth about how he can take on many issues at once … and I think it speaks volumes to his leadership capability,” Stukins said.

Stukins said that by visiting Springfield, the president is “reaffirming his commitment to the heartland.” He said Missouri’s diverse economy makes it an ideal location to talk about tax policy.

“Agriculture. Industry. Technology. There’s just such a wide gamut of economic components that call Missouri home,” he said.

The White House previously sketched out tax cuts in April that would reduce the number of tax brackets and slash taxes for businesses. That plan bore similarities to Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts in Kansas, which the GOP-dominated state Legislature largely rolled back earlier this year.

The Republican-controlled Congress is expected to try to take up tax policy in the wake of the GOP’s inability in recent months to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Trump’s speech is part of an effort to take the conversation about taxes “directly to the American people,” according to the Tuesday briefing.

Daniel Ponder, a political scientist at Drury University in Springfield, said he was surprised that Trump’s team did not postpone the event while Houston continues to grapple with flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey.

“It certainly is curious in terms of why they’ve decided to do this. … It almost seems like the potential fallout could outweigh any benefit,” Ponder said.

But Ponder said it’s not surprising that Trump would choose Missouri as a place to roll out his tax agenda, noting that he won the state by double digits in November and the U.S. Senate race in Missouri next year will be competitive.

A White House official emphasized that the appearance Wednesday in Springfield is a speech, not a rally.

“This is going to be a speech focused on why we need tax reform,” the official said. “Not necessarily how we are going to have a tax reform legislation look.”

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3