Nixon administration launches campaign against veto override of tax bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon went on the offensive Thursday, launching a public campaign against GOP-backed legislation that would enact the a big tax cut for Missouri’s top earners.

Nixon vetoed the bill last week, but he and those in his administration fear Republicans may be able to pull enough votes to override him in September.

Speaking to a meeting of higher education officials in Jefferson City, Nixon said HB 253 — a bill that would cut taxes by $800 million annually — would be detrimental to education moving forward.

“Members of the General Assembly can either support HB 253 or they can support higher education, but they can’t support both,” he said. “This is an important time, this is a fork in the road, and we must chose the right path.”

Nixon denounced the legislation as “draconian” and “sloppily written,” pointing to a provision in the bill that would raise taxes on prescription drugs by more than $200 million. State Sen. WIll Kraus, one of the bill’s chief sponsors, said the legislature would be willing to go back and remove the apparent accidental tax increase if given the chance.

Nixon told reporters he was not comfortable with that and suggested that lawmakers should send him legislation the way they want it the first time.

Kraus, a Kansas City area Republican, proposed the legislation in part as an attempt to combat the so-called “boarder war” between Kansas and Missouri, where both states are competing for businesses to stay and land in their states.

Nixon was critical of Kansas, saying, “we’ve watched our neighbors to the west struggle with the consequences of their own experiment,” and noting that Missouri’s tax rates are still lower than Kansas’s.

As part of their full court press against a potential override of the bill, Nixon dispatched some of his top economic and policy advisors to brief reporters on the bill Tuesday afternoon. State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said the administration would be taking the potential revenue shortfalls that would be presented by an override of the veto into effect when they enact their budget on July 1.

It would take all 109 Republicans in the state House and a supermajority in the state Senate to vote in favor of the tax cut again for it to be enacted.

When asked whether the public offensive was meant as a strategy to sway wary Republicans, Senior Legal & Policy Advisor Chris Pieper said coyly, “that is an outcome we wouldn’t mind.”