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Nixon Blasts Tax Cut Bill Sent To Him By Missouri Lawmakers

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

A controversial tax cut proposal has been sent to Gov. Jay Nixon, after the Missouri House passed it late Wednesday afternoon.

Senate Bill 509 would cut an individual's state income tax rate from 6 percent to 5.5 percent and phase in a 25 percent deduction on business income earned by individuals.  State Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, sponsored the bill. He had floated two radically altered versions of the bill after reaching a short-lived compromise in February with Nixon, a Democrat. After the Republican-controlled Missouri Senate blocked the alternative versions, Kraus changed it again, making it closer to the original version.

The Senate passed Kraus' bill 23-9, on April 1, on a straight party-line vote.  The bill then successfully moved through two House committees, and House Republican leaders chose to act on the Senate bill instead of waiting for their own version to navigate the upper chamber. Before today's vote, Republican House leaders met with reporters and announced that their entire House caucus would vote for the Senate bill, in the hopes of quickly getting a tax cut proposal to the governor in time to override a potential veto before the 2014 regular session ends.

"That would be our plan," said Majority Floor Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country.

Attending the press event were most of the "Famous 15" Republican House members who sided with Gov. Nixon and voted against overriding last year's tax cut bill, House Bill 253.

"(Senate Bill 509) is a much better bill, a much simpler bill," said state Rep. Nate Walker, R-Kirksville.  "(House Bill 253) had a couple of tax increases in them, and that was my concern."

The "Famous 15" had objected to the elimination of several tax deductions that was a part of last year's tax cut bill.

Kraus' bill was handled in the Missouri House by state Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester.  He argued that Missouri needs to cut taxes to keep up with some of its neighbors.

"We have Oklahoma that has cut their income tax, Kansas has cut theirs, (and) Tennessee has no income tax," Koenig said.  "It is time to cut the income tax for the first time in 93 years."

Democrats criticized the bill, some saying that it depended on "new math" to create jobs.

"I hate paying taxes, (and) if I didn't have to pay taxes I would not pay taxes," said state Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City.  "If I can keep every dollar that I generate in my pocket, I would keep every dollar that I generate in my pocket.  The problem is, if we're going to cut taxes with no visible means of increasing revenue, we're going to hurt everybody (and) we're going to hurt all services."

Credit Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio
Standing in the side gallery, in center of photo, State Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, watches the Missouri House debate his bill, SB509.

Senate Bill 509 passed 104-48, five votes short of what's needed for a veto override.  However, five Republican lawmakers were absent during the vote, and they're expected to support a veto override if necessary.  The most crucial vote, however, came from one Democrat who sided with Republicans and voted "yes":  State Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart.  His vote would be the potential 109th vote needed for a successful veto override.  Roorda has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Less than an hour after the vote, Nixon blasted the bill while talking to reporters in his office, describing it as an "all-out attack on public education" in Missouri.

"What lobbyist needs a tax cut?" Nixon said.  "What lawyer does everybody feels so sorry for in this state that they need a tax cut, rather than funding education?  Why should we give lawyers and lobbyists tax cuts and raise tuitions on kids going to college?  Those are the choices in front of us.”

Nixon is expected to veto the bill, but has not said yet when he'll do so.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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