Lt. Gov. Mike Parson said on Tuesday that he’ll be ready to assume Missouri’s highest elected office if Gov. Eric Greitens is removed.
While visiting the Columbia business community Tuesday afternoon, Parson said that there’s “no question” the capital is in chaos, but time will take care of the disorder in Jefferson City.
“My job right now is to focus on being the best lieutenant governor I can be,” Parson said, “and if that oath comes to effect and my job expands then we’ll be ready for that expansion.”
Parson was voted lieutenant governor in 2016, winning 110 of Missouri’s 114 counties. While he said he’s focused on his current position, only time will tell if he would need to be sworn in as Missouri’s 57th governor.
“I know what my obligations are if something should ever occur,” Parson said. “I knew that from the beginning what they were. You just never thought it was going to happen.”
Parson said he has not talked to Greitens “for a while to say the least” but has been focused on moving legislation forward in the session that ended last week. Parson has not publicly criticized Greitens’ alleged conduct and has not commented on the special session, where lawmakers could possibly consider impeaching the governor.
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce hosted Parson for their Lunch with a Leader series, where Parson discussed his “Buy Missouri” initiative. Parson created the initiative during his first year as lieutenant governor to advertise products made in the state.
Parson acknowledged legislators at the beginning of his speech for keeping their head down and “doing the hard work for the state of Missouri” amid distractions. After Parson’s speech, Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick said the chamber is ready to work alongside any administration in the future.
“As our state unfortunately goes through some of the things we’re going through,” McCormick said, “it’s always important we always have a good relationship with all of our leadership down at the state level.”
While Parson toured Columbia, a House committee investigating Greitens began meeting during the special session, which was called to consider possibly impeaching the governor.
Greitens, who has admitted to having an extramarital affair, was indicted in February by a grand jury on invasion of privacy charges for allegedly taking an unauthorized photo of the woman while she was partially naked. That charge was dropped on May 14 but a special prosecutor was named in the case Monday and charges may be refiled. Greitens also faces a charge related to his use of a charity donor list to raise funds for his political campaign, according to evidence the committee gathered.
In his speech to nearly 80 Columbia business leaders and owners, Parson highlighted a handful of Missouri-based companies, including Shakespeare’s Pizza, Diamond Pet Foods and Gilster-Mary Lee. Parson said the goal of the initiative is to make it easier for consumers to recognize and purchase products made in Missouri and for businesses to purchase from fellow Missourians.
Parson also praised corporate and individual tax cuts on the state and federal level, but he thinks legislators will be conservative with how they move forward with future tax legislation.
“When you start putting $150 into people’s pocket a month, that’s a big deal,” Parson said. “That means they’re spending that money and investing it back.”
Parson also said he supported education funding as a way to train the workforce.
“We cannot sit around and cut education and not allow them to have the tools they need to meet the skilled workforce demand,” Parson said.
Tuesday morning, Parson toured the new Boone County Emergency Communications Center in north Columbia. Director Chad Martin and Deputy Director Tom Hurley escorted the lieutenant governor and his family around the new 28,000 square-foot building designed to withstand extreme weather events.
Parson, who served as the sheriff of Polk County from 1993 to 2005 before entering the Missouri House of Representatives, said he was impressed with the building’s up-to-date technology and staff.
“Boone County ought to be proud of this one because this is really a great facility,” Parson said. “As I toured it today you can see you have some great people in there working and trying to help people out there everyday.”
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