For the first time since taking office, Gov. Eric Greitens agreed to this brief sit down interview with ABC 17 News.
In a statement released Thursday, Greitens said the state’s $52 million share of a 2003 settlement with tobacco companies, recently made available by a state Supreme Court decision, will be used to cover some of his recent budget reduction proposals.
The governor said the money will be used to avoid cuts in home and nursing care services, as well as, public school transportation.
Greitens told ABC 17 News the money comes as a “lucky break” and said “sound budgets are not built on lucky breaks.”
This is the statement from Greitens’ office:
“Last week, the state of Missouri learned that it will receive $52 million from a legal settlement and additional federal funding. Many people wanted us to use the money as soon as we got it. Commentators in the media accused us of not spending it fast enough. They were, and are, wrong. Too many politicians spend before they think. In fact, when we came into office, they were trying to spend $700 million that we simply don’t have in the bank. I was elected to fight for the people of Missouri, to be a budget hawk, and to guard every tax dollar. This money makes our budget situation a bit better. It helps; it doesn’t make us whole. When you consider that politicians were overspending by $700 Million, this $52 Million is helpful, but it is not a long-term solution to the challenges that we face. We looked at every part of the budget, and we looked at what the people of Missouri needed most. In our original budget, because of the shortfall, one of the tough choices we made was to change eligibility standards for the home and community-based services program. Making that change helped us protect the most vulnerable people in Missouri. This program spends almost $1 billion taxpayer dollars every year–and it is growing at an unsustainable pace. It is on a path to break budgets for many years to come. If we are not careful, this program alone will eat away at every other budget priority, including public safety, domestic violence shelters, K-12 education, veterans programs, and programs for children with special needs. The simple fact is that if healthcare spending in Missouri is not reformed, it will destroy the budget and threaten every other important program that we care about. Given the settlement money, I am issuing a Governor’s amendment to the budget to restore $41 million in funding to home and community-based services. This will maintain coverage for every patient currently in the program, while giving us time to work to overhaul a broken healthcare system. This is not a long-term fix–it is short-term relief. My team and I intend to use the coming months to do a thorough audit of how this program works: who it helps, where it’s broken, and how we can deliver better services for fewer dollars. This amendment also restores $11 million dollars for K-12 school bus transportation. Protecting K-12 education was always one of our priorities. This $11M means that we are spending more on elementary and secondary education than any budget has before. This settlement is good news. But it’s important to remember that they are a lucky break. Sound budgets are not built on lucky breaks. Our budget problems cannot be solved by stopgaps and short-term funding windfalls. A politician would pretend that this extra money was somehow of their doing, and they’d promise that everything will be fine if we keep spending exactly as we have. I came here as an outsider, and I know we can’t do what we’ve always done. The hard truth is that Missouri needs to get our fiscal house in order. We need to cut unnecessary programs, reform others, and get maximum value from a minimum of tax dollars. Most importantly, we need to get the economy moving, so we can create more jobs and higher pay for the people of Missouri. My boxing coach used to say, “Hope is nice and lucky is great when you can get it, but if you want to be a champion, count on hard work.” Missouri, we caught a lucky break, but we’ve got a lot of hard work in front of us.”