President Donald Trump’s first signature legislative win, the $1.5 trillion Republican tax cut, came in the waning days of 2017, and its full effects won’t be evident until 2018 and beyond. But the president’s influence was still felt acutely this year by some companies, industries and public officials in Missouri.
The Year in Brief looks at the business stories that were most important to Missouri in 2017, and that will continue to shape the state in 2018 and beyond.
Taxes and 2018
Trump made Missouri a go-to locale for discussing the GOP tax plan, unveiling its core principles in Springfield in August and coming to St. Charles for a tax speech in November. In the St. Charles appearance, he backed Josh Hawley, the Missouri attorney general and Republican frontrunner to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democratic incumbent, in a 2018 U.S. Senate race.
Amid uncertainty about insurers and attacks from Trump and other Washington Republicans, the Affordable Care Act endured a bumpy year in Missouri. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City dropped from the 2018 ACA marketplace and temporarily left some parts of Missouri without any insurers before Cetene, the Clayton-based insurer, moved in to fill the void.
The president continued his love affair with the coal industry and took steps to boost mining companies, relaxing Obama-era carbon limits and announcing the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. Missouri’s coal companies, including Arch Coal, Peabody Energy and Foresight Energy, welcomed Trump’s support and enjoyed improved fortunes in 2017.
However, the industry’s rally, which started in 2016 and has been driven by factors including dips in global coal production and increases in natural gas prices, as well as Trump’s deregulation, is showing signs of losing steam heading into 2018.
Midwestern farmers pleaded with the Trump administration to avoid trade wars with Canada and Mexico and watched with great interest as the three countries renegotiated NAFTA. That will continue into 2018, as the three countries are scheduled to continue negotiations through March.
Farmers also contended with labor shortages in the midst of the president’s immigration crackdown. Slumping profitability for farms coincided with that crackdown and led to a surge of investment in ag tech at several companies, including Creve Coeur-based Monsanto.
Early in the year, some established tech companies in Missouri expressed concerns about Trump’s changes to immigration policy. Many more tech startups voiced opposition to the possible repeal of net neutrality under Ajit Pai, who was elevated to chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under Trump.
In mid-December, Trump rolled back an Obama-era rule allowing the spouses of H1-B visa recipients to work in the U.S, Fortune reports, citing his “Buy American, Hire American” policy. The same day, the FCC voted to end net neutrality and was greeted by the expected blowback from tech startups.
However, Sprint, the wireless provider based in the Kansas City area, applauded the move for reducing regulatory uncertainty.
The White House intends to introduce an infrastructure plan in January, Bloomberg reports, with the expected to favor states that generate some of their own funding for projects. That could create an interesting dynamic in Missouri, which has the nation’s seventh-largest highway system but has failed in recent years to approve fuel-tax increases or other new mechanisms for funding infrastructure. A task force formed to address the state’s infrastructure needs is recommending a fuel-tax increase next year.