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Eigel says his antiestablishment stance is what Missouri needs in a governor

Missouri State Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, announces his bid for governor on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, at the St. Charles County Regional Airport in Portage Des Sioux, Mo. The Air Force veteran and two-term state senator joins the Republican primary alongside Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe. A member of the legislature’s conservative caucus, Eigel has been critical of Senate GOP leadership on various issues.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri state Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, announces his bid for governor in September at St. Charles County Regional Airport in Portage Des Sioux.

State Sen. Bill Eigel spent his roughly two terms in the Missouri Senate going against the grain of Republican leaders.

But the Weldon Spring Republican doesn’t believe his clashes with his fellow GOP elected officials will be a detriment to his gubernatorial bid. On an episode of The Politically Speaking Hour on St. Louis on the Air, Eigel said his antiestablishment posture puts him in a good position in a competitive GOP primary that includes Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

“I'm the guy more than anything else that is talking about trying to break up the status quo in Jefferson City,” Eigel said. “I've been watching this for eight years now, it does not care about the challenges that everyday Missourians are going through.”

Eigel has been one of the leaders of a group of GOP senators who have pushed back against Republican Senate leadership. He’s been critical of how Republicans pursue congressional redistricting, economic development incentives and, most recently, a failed push to make the state constitution harder to amend.

He said if he had been governor, he would have called a special session last year to make sure something got on the ballot to change how constitutional amendments are approved. He supported a proposal that would have required an amendment to pass in five out of eight congressional districts.

“And it makes a whole lot of sense to a lot of Missourians who have seen some pretty powerful, well-funded, out-of-state special interests get questions to them, and eventually, into the constitution,” Eigel said.

He added that the only reason Democratic minorities in the Senate have been able to make an impact is because they had “so much cooperation with Republicans.”

The Missouri Senate has a tradition of a strong filibuster, and Republicans have been hesitant to cut off debate since it historically prompted Democrats to retaliate by gumming up the works on other bills.

Eigel added that he wants the state to chart a course like those in Florida or Texas, places that he said have been able to advance more conservative priorities than Missouri.

“The difference between those states and our state is that we have a huge absence and vacuum of leadership in the number one spot,” Eigel said. “There's an old saying that the only thing for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Well, we have too many folks in statewide office right now that did nothing.”

Personal property tax in crosshairs

One of the centerpieces of Eigel’s campaign is to eliminate Missouri’s personal property tax.

Missourians have to pay a yearly tax on items like cars or trucks. Eigel said he would like to get rid of that tax and then send money from the state’s general revenue fund to local governments to make sure they don’t lose money.

He noted that other states have been able to fund governmental services without a personal property tax.

“Most rational human beings in this state want to continue to fund the local services in this state like police, fire and schools that we see in every state – including the ones that don’t have personal property taxes,” Eigel said. “It is a conversation if charging people rent on their cars every Dec. 1 is the right way to do it.”

“And then by getting rid of just a little bit of the waste in that budget, even the general revenue portions of that budget, we'll have more than enough money to keep the local areas whole,” he added.

Eigel has pushed this idea of ending personal property taxes for years in the Senate with little success. But he said if he’s able to beat Kehoe and Ashcroft on Aug. 6 and go on to win the general election, he can generate enough public support to get the idea across the finish line.

“The Missouri I'm thinking about is going to require these big, bold ideas about reducing the tax burden, getting our finances in order and really taking on that status quo,” Eigel said. “And it's not going to come from folks that have really benefited from that status quo for years, maybe in some cases for generations.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Ulaa Kuziez, Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr and the production intern is Roshae Hemmings.

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Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.