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Politically Speaking: Treasurer Schmitt on federal tax overhaul – and retooling Missouri pensions

Missouri state Treasurer Eric Schmitt. Dec. 7, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri state Treasurer Eric Schmitt

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back state Treasurer Eric Schmitt to the program.

With his latest appearance, Schmitt becomes the first elected official to be on the show for the fifth time. He was a guest during his tenure as a state senator representing a portion of St. Louis County.

The treasurer’s office is responsible for investing the state’s money and running Missouri’s college savings plan. The officeholder also sits on a number of key boards, including the Missouri Housing Development Commission and the Missouri State Employee’s Retirement System.

Earlier this fall, Schmitt traveled to Washington, D.C., to learn more about an overhaul of the federal tax code. Both the House and the Senate have passed different versions of the proposal, which is now slated to be hashed out in conference committee. Schmitt believes that the plan will lead to economic growth, and has called for lawmakers to send legislation to President Donald Trump’s desk.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., voted for the Senate bill, arguing it would place more money in the pockets of working Americans. But U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., voted against it, contending the measure is too slanted toward the wealthy – and didn’t include enough input from Democrats.

Here’s what Schmitt had to say during the show:

  • Schmitt said the MOSERS board will be doing a national search to serve as the retirement system’s executive director. He said executive director John Watson’s contract is up next summer, so it gives board members “time to deal with that particular issue.” He added that Watson, who was Gov. Jay Nixon’s chief of staff, could apply to keep his job.
  • This comes as Schmitt has raised alarm about the health of Missouri’s pension system. He said that policymakers need to take a serious look at making changes to avoid the pitfalls of other states, like Illinois.
  • In addition to praising other parts of the tax overhaul, Schmitt said he was particularly bullish about allowing parents to open 529 savings accounts to spend on K-12 education. That money could go toward private school tuition – or to purchase books at public schools. “Right now, you can use [529s] to go to Saint Louis University or a private higher ed institution,” Schmitt said. “And they’re just saying that now you want to mirror it for K-12.”
  • Schmitt decided against running for the U.S. Senate this year against McCaskill and is supporting fellow GOP statewide official Josh Hawley’s campaign. “He has a good temperament, he’s a smart guy,” he said. “I think the bigger question is does Claire McCaskill deserve another term?”   

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Eric Schmitt on Twitter: @eric_schmitt

Music: “Tennis Court” by Lorde

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.