Under rainy skies with the Missouri State Capitol looming in the background, Gov. Eric Greitens defended his track record in a campaign-style speech one day before the Missouri General Assembly will begin a session to consider his impeachment.
Greitens held a media event Thursday in the Carnahan Memorial Garden to promote a new investment by his office and the General Assembly in the Missouri Biodiesel Producer Incentive Fund. Flanked by allies in state Rep. Craig Redmon, R-Canton, and state Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, Greitens told FFA students, farmers and other supporters that his administration invested in agriculture and rural Missourians.
The 12-minute-long speech quickly turned into a defense of his track record and expression of his resolve to prevail against his critics.
With state lawmakers beginning a special session Friday in which the House and Senate could consider impeaching the governor, Greitens said he went through worse pain during his time training to become a Navy SEAL.
"We are going to step forward day after day and continue in our mission to fight for the people of Missouri," Greitens said. "To fight for the forgotten and to do what is right."
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner dropped a felony invasion of privacy charge against Greitens stemming from a photo he allegedly took during an affair with his mistress in 2015. Gardner said Monday though she expects a special prosecutor to take the case and refile the charge. He also faces a computer tampering charge for allegedly misusing a list of donors from the Mission Continues charity, which he co-founded, to help fund his 2016 campaign.
Throughout the speech Thursday, Greitens touted his administration's accomplishments, starting first with investments made in rural Missourians.
On Thursday, he announced that he and the General Assembly allocated $4 million to the biodiesel fund. Created in 2002, the Missouri Biodiesel Producer Incentive Fund encourages biodiesel producers to make biodiesel by giving them grants to help them do so.
Missouri produced 202 million gallons of biodiesel in 2017 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Only Texas, which produced 429 million gallons, produced more biodiesel last year. Greitens' office said Missouri's biodiesel industry supports 2,500 jobs statewide.
Soybean farmer Warren Stemme told the crowd that the program took on debt and that the investment by the state will repay that debt. Redmon and Brown said agriculture forms the heart of the state's economy.
"Getting this behind us is just one step," Redmon said. "We're going to create jobs, we're going to improve our economy."
Greitens told more than a dozen FFA students from around the area that his administration's investment in the program shows that agriculture will continue to form the backbone of the state's economies for years to come.
"Rural Missouri is coming back," Greitens said. "For too long, our small towns had been overlooked. Well, that's changed."
Greitens quickly moved though to defending many of his other policies he's pushed while in office as the speech became campaign-like.
In December, the Missouri Housing Development Commission voted against using state funds to match $140 million in federal funding for the state's low-income housing tax credit. For now, the state LIHTC program is effectively on hold as funding is withheld, though some federal money could be disbursed by the commission later this year.
Last fall, Greitens called for the commission to stop wasting taxpayer money. Other lawmakers acknowledged the program needed reforms. Only 42 cents out of every dollar spent on the program went toward low-income housing projects, a June 2017 audit by Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway found.
Greitens told the crowd that "tax-credit millionaires" claimed they were going to use the money for a good purpose, but that many spent it poorly.
"It's called a scam, and those days are over in Missouri," Greitens said. "We're not going to let a bunch of rip-off artists continue to steal from you."
Local leaders in Jefferson City have championed the idea of building a Missouri River port to increase trade avenues for manufacturers and farmers throughout the region.
When he unveiled his executive budget in January, Greitens earmarked $7.6 million to be spent in new funding to modernize existing river ports statewide. On Thursday, Greitens again championed the idea of investing in the creation of new ports.
In February 2017, Greitens also announced a plan to remove about a third of the 113,000 regulatory requirements across state agencies. That plan and another that sold 30 state-owned vehicles and several airplanes planes helped save taxpayers money, Greitens said.
"Every dollar that is spent is a dollar that a hard-working Missouri family earned," Greitens said. "When we implement common sense reforms, it gives us the ability to make investments in things that work."