Nixon stresses fiscal responsibility as veto session showdown looms

Gov. Jay Nixon held a press conference Sept. 4 to emphasize his priorities ahead of the Missouri Legislature's Sept. 10 veto session. | Phil Joens/Missouri Business Alert
Gov. Jay Nixon held a press conference Thursday to reiterate his positions on potential vetoes ahead of the Missouri Legislature’s Sept. 10 veto session. | Phil Joens/Missouri Business Alert

Gov. Jay Nixon had a message Thursday for legislators who might think about overturning one of his 30 vetoes and 136 line-item vetoes next week: the money isn’t there.

Missouri’s General Assembly will reconvene Wednesday for its annual veto session. On the table are bills vetoed by Nixon that deal with utility payment subsidies for low-income citizens, income taxes for corporations and assistance for the state’s dairy and cattle industry.

In May, legislators passed a $26.4 million budget based on numerous assumptions that state tax revenues would continue to increase as Missouri climbs out of the great recession. Instead, state revenues fell during fiscal 2014. A week later, legislators passed several tax breaks that will decrease state revenue by about $217 million this year, Nixon said.

“Authorizing new government spending and creating new government spending, while at the same time creating new special interest tax breaks is not fiscally responsible, ” he said. “Now is just not the time to be building government.”

Republicans control both the House and Senate and have a veto-proof majority in both, which would enable them to override the governor if Republican legislators vote as a bloc.

Nixon reiterated Thursday that he would rather not cut funding from secondary and post-secondary education. Still, he withheld $143 million from schools this year because of the estimated $751 million the so-called “Friday Favors” tax breaks could cost taxpayers if those vetoes are overridden.

The contentious “Friday Favors” are a series of tax breaks passed by Republicans for things like fitness centers, data centers and electric companies that were passed on the last day of the General Assembly’s session. Nixon vetoed the tax breaks, saying at the time that they would amount to fiscal suicide.

He stated his mission Thursday was to reach out to members of both parties to recognize the state cannot afford these tax breaks.

“I just want to send a clear signal to all Missourians that we need to sustain these dollars on Friday Favors so we can get this money out to schools,” Nixon said.

Republicans say the tax breaks will create jobs and stimulate Missouri’s economy. Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, is a Member of the House Budget Committee. He told the Associated Press that House Republicans are considering overriding vetoes that would not cost taxpayers as much money as other bills would.

“There’s a decent chance that we would override a few of those (tax breaks) — some of the lower-cost ones — that have less of an impact on local taxes and still be within our ability to fund a large portion of the appropriations,” Rowden said.

House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, told the Associated Press that he won’t vote to override any vetoes. Hummel did say that some Democrats might want to override budget issues.

“There are a lot of things that were vetoed that could help a lot of people,”Hummel told the Associated Press. “That makes it hard for people to not want to overturn that veto to restore some of that funding.”

Nixon also stressed Thursday if his vetoes are overridden, it may hurt Missouri’s AAA credit rating, which could hurt Missouri municipalities that want to borrow.

“The rating agencies watch all of this stuff very carefully,” Nixon said. “You’ve seen other states get downgraded in the last couple years. I don’t want that to happen here and spending is one of the things they look at.”

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