Departing Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens should do the state a final favor by putting his official pen away until the end of his term.
Greitens said he’ll resign as of 5 p.m. Friday. A formal letter of resignation wasn’t available at midday Wednesday, but Missourians should take Greitens at his word. He’s leaving.
As it turns out, though, he could still have a major impact on state policy.
Lawmakers passed dozens of bills in the final days of this year’s session, including the budget, tax cuts, changes to prevailing wage payments and changes to the merit system for state workers.
As of Wednesday, those bills, and others, are officially on the governor’s desk, for him to sign or veto.
Some of the bills are not controversial. But others involve decisions that will affect the state for years, and Greitens should allow his successor, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, to decide if the bills should become law.
We say this without regard to specific policy choices either man is asked to make. In fact, Parson and Greitens appear to be politically aligned on most issues.
But Parson must lead the state starting Friday evening. He has a right and responsibility to determine the best path forward for Missouri without having to deal with 11th-hour decisions made by the outgoing governor.
Greitens, for example, could veto line items in spending bills. That could affect schools, or higher education, or a number of other state functions that Parson will soon oversee. Some lawmakers worry Greitens will veto bills just to anger perceived political enemies.
While Greitens vetoes in the closing hours of his administration would be problematic, they could be overcome. The legislature can come back later this year and override any veto. The people will have the final say.
More troubling is the possibility that Greitens will sign important bills in the closing hours. He could sign the tax cuts, for example, that were passed in the last days of the regular session.
We think the tax cuts are a bad idea. We’re also realists: Parson is likely to sign the reductions into law.
But it should be his decision, not Greitens’. It’s Parson and legislators who will have to make the budget work in the years ahead.
The incoming governor need not make his choices hastily. He has until mid-July to make up his mind, legislative officials say. As an added factor, Parson presided over the state Senate on numerous occasions this year — he’ll be familiar with many of the measures on his desk.
Greitens, on the other hand, would have to make his choices in just a few days.
“There’s no practical, good government reason why Eric Greitens should do a damn thing,” one legislator said Wednesday.
Missouri legislators are promising a smooth transition and downplaying talk of last-minute vetoes by the incumbent governor. That’s good to hear. Just to be safe, the legislature should stay in special session until Greitens’ resignation is official.
Missouri’s constitutional crisis is nearing an end. Greitens should respect the transition process, and the constituents he has served, by letting the next governor set the state’s agenda.