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After respite in Eminence, Nixon set to decide on legislation

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Since the Missouri General Assembly adjourned on Friday, Gov. Jay Nixon hasn’t made much headway on the tall stack of bills awaiting his consideration.

Gov. Jay Nixon talks to reporters after RGA's groundbreaking ceremony in Chesterfield.

In fact, Nixon told reporters in Chesterfield today that his focus this weekend was on more than which bills to sign and which bills to veto. Instead, the governor spent part of the weekend in Shannon County to honor Missouri wildlife.

“I was in Eminence on Saturday at the elk capital of Missouri,” said Nixon, in responding to a question about whether he had any update on his legislative progress. 

The governor helped dedicate an elk statue as part of the Ozark Mountain Elk Festival. The statue, according to an advisory from Nixon's office, is meant to celebrate the restoration of elk to southern Missouri by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

But Nixon noted that Monday was the beginning of his bill review process. Now that the legislature is out of session, he added "we will begin to go through what they’ve done line-by-line.”

Soon after he participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking for RGA’s global headquarters in Chesterfield, Nixon reiterated his concern about at least one bill on his desk: legislation cutting personal income, business and corporate income taxes.

Nixon strongly hinted that he planned to veto Rep. T.J. Berry’s bill at several press conferences this month. And while he again stopped short of a definitive declaration, the governor once expressed his concerns about the bill.

“You don’t want to be overly disruptive in this economy," Nixon said. "We have worked hard with the building blocks of a solid economy and a predictable tax system. And that’s the reason why organizations like this are investing $140 million right here and why Ford just a couple of weeks ago announced 2,000 jobs in Kansas City. And why Monsanto has made a $400 million investment here.”

“That certainty and predictability is an important part of our economic development strategy,” he added. “We’ll give the bill a hard look. But I am one that has believed that we are a low tax state … and being predictable in that area and not veering off that course is pretty important.”

Proponents say that the bill would make easier for Missouri to compete with other states – like Kansas or Oklahoma – that have aggressively cut taxes. It’s highly possible that if Nixon vetoes the bill, the GOP-controlled legislature could attempt to override it in September.

In an open letter that was released to reporters today, Associated Industries of Missouri President Ray McCarty said "vetoing this measured tax legislation would be a big mistake for Missouri employers, employees and the Missouri economy."

"We are at war in Missouri, trying to entice businesses to this state, and keep the ones we have already," McCarty wrote. "This cut is not the drastic, all-in, business tax cut of Kansas. It doesn’t eliminate the state income tax like Tennessee. It doesn’t drop tax rates even as low as Oklahoma. But what House Bill 253 does give is tax certainty and sustainability. It allows for growth for schools and necessary functions of state government, and allows businesses and individuals to invest more into their personal and corporate lives, resulting a healthier state economy."

For his part, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said he would like to see Nixon veto legislation abolishing local foreclosure mediation ordinances. St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis passed those measures in recent months, although both ordinances are frozen at the moment pending a court ruling.

Nixon said earlier this month he hadn’t made a decision on the measure.

“I would love for him to veto it,” said Dooley, adding that he hasn’t talked to governor about the bill. “I think it’s needed. That’s why the county council in their wisdom enacted the law.… St. Louis County was hit disproportionately with foreclosures. This is something that would help us. It won’t solve the complete problem. But if it’s helped one or two people – or 10 – we’ve done a great thing.”

Dirt turned

Nixon and Dooley joined dozens of others to celebrate the groundbreaking of RGA’s new global headquarters. The company – officially called the Reinsurance Group of America – is one of the world’s largest life reinsurance companies.

The company’s new headquarters is expected to provide a $140 million capital investment and eventually create another 300 jobs over the next few years.

“We looked over the last several years our relative growth rate and determined quickly that we were going to outgrow our existing space,” said Jack Lay, RGA’s senior executive vice president and chief financial officer. “It soon became apparent that because of the space needs, we needed to strongly consider building our own building. We ended up obviously at this site. We’re delighted with it. We ended up at the center of gravity here in Chesterfield, Missouri. And for an international company, that’s saying something.”

The RGA project is also another boon for Chesterfield. The western St. Louis County municipality received news earlier this year that Monsanto would be investing nearly $400 million to expand its headquarters in the city.

“It is especially satisfying when a company that’s called the Show Me State home for decades increases its investment here in Missouri,” Nixon said. 

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