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Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jay Ashcroft wants to phase out Missouri’s income tax

Jay Ashcroft, Secretary of State of Missouri, photographed at the St. Louis Public Radio Offices on Thursday June 27, 2024.
Theo R. Welling
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, photographed outside St. Louis Public Radio on Thursday

Jay Ashcroft has been on an electoral winning streak since he rolled to victory in a contentious primary for Missouri secretary of state in 2016, and now he’s hoping to extend it in the GOP primary for governor.

The two-term statewide official is facing stiff competition from Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and state Sen. Bill Eigel. On the latest episode of the Politically Speaking Hour on St. Louis on the Air, Ashcroft said neither of his opponents could bring about the type of policy change Republicans want since they took control of state government in 2017.

“I've actually been moving conservative policy forward to increase the opportunity for all Missourians,” Ashcroft said. “My competitors have been selling Missouri for their own political and personal gain.”

One of the key elements of Ashcroft’s platform is eliminating Missouri’s income tax. He would then have a group of experts come up with a plan to replace the revenue, adding that he would try to phase out the tax over time.

He said that a number of other states have been able to get by without an income tax, such as Alaska, Florida and Tennessee.

“We can do what is necessary for the government to do while returning the money back to the people of the state,” he said.

When asked about how he would approach increasing state worker pay, especially with some Missouri state government jobs lagging considerably behind other states like Illinois, Ashcroft said he would engage in a “reset” of employee classifications and salaries.

“You will definitely see that happen early on next year to look at what state government needs to be doing, who we need to have doing that, how do we make sure we have the right people doing that,” he said. “But you cannot just have a bureaucracy that you just allow to run on autopilot for 10 or 12 years. It's going to get bad.”

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft hosted the ice cream social on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, a tradition begun by his dad, John Ashcroft (left), who is a party icon. John Ashcroft has served as Missouri's governor, a U.S. senator and U.S. attorney general.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio
Jay Ashcroft, right, is the son of John Ashcroft, one of the most successful Republican political figures in Missouri. While the elder Ashcroft has appeared in ads to support his son's campaign, some of Jay Ashcroft's detractors contend he trying to ride into the governorship on his family name.

Family ties

Ashcroft is trying to follow in the footsteps of his father, John Ashcroft, who is the only Republican to serve two complete terms as Missouri governor. But he brushed aside the idea that he was trying to ride into office based off his family name, adding that such contentions amount to sour grapes from his political opponents.

“I've been a teacher, I've been an engineer, I’ve practiced law,” he said. “Those individuals that have been members of the swamp are just trying to project their own failings on me.”

Ashcroft was critical of Kehoe in particular for supporting a gas tax increase that went into effect in 2021. Ashcroft said it was unnecessary. He also dismissed Kehoe’s comment that Ashcroft’s father supported a small gas tax hike during his tenure as governor.

“Honestly, I don't think my father agrees that we need a gas tax now,” Ashcroft said. “I think it may be a newsflash, lieutenant governor, but the world has changed in the last 40 years. ”

No state help for Chiefs and Royals

Ashcroft is emphatically against state assistance to keep the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs in Missouri. That’s become a bigger issue as of late after Kansas passed a major incentive package to lure the teams across the border.

“If you want a sports team to come or stay in your state, you have to make your state vibrant,” Ashcroft said. “You have to make your state an economic powerhouse where economic freedom reigns and where people want to live. You do that by protecting individuals with public safety.”

Eigel also opposes state aid for professional sports teams, while Kehoe said Missouri needs to be “at the table” to keep two organizations that bring money and attention to the state.

St. Louis police control

Like Eigel and Kehoe, Ashcroft supports reinstating a board appointed by the governor to oversee the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

He said having the mayor’s office in charge of the department hasn’t worked for the city.

“We're going to put the citizens of this state ahead of the criminals,” he said.

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. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

Jay Ashcroft joins the Politically Speaking Hour on St. Louis on the Air

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