Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had a horrible 2014, and 2015 isn’t looking too good either.
The Democrat’s struggles in Ferguson are well known and ongoing. In 2014, the General Assembly overturned Nixon’s vetoes on taxes, guns and abortion — and there will be larger veto-proof Republican majorities in both houses this year. In November, Missouri voters took away some of the governor’s budget powers.
Now, Nixon’s long-shot effort to keep the NFL’s Rams in St. Louis appears doomed as well.
Last fall, Nixon asked two St. Louis civic leaders to suggest ways to pay for stadium improvements for the Rams. Without those improvements, the team could break its existing lease and consider moving out of town.
“Make no mistake about it: St. Louis is an NFL city,” Nixon said. He asked for the recommendations by the end of this month.
The plan is still secret, but no one thinks St. Louis can provide the expensive improvements on its own. Instead, the group is expected to suggest the entire state kick in hundreds of millions of dollars for the project.
It’s a heavy political lift.
Missouri now spends $10 million a year to pay for the borrowing on the Rams’ current stadium, but that commitment ends in six years. Lawmakers in both parties are already skeptical of extending the spending beyond that date.
So imagine the reaction Monday when the Los Angeles Times revealed that Rams owner Stan Kroenke plans to build a new football stadium in California without taxpayer help.
It’s a stunning disclosure. It proves that Kroenke, a billionaire, could build a private stadium in St. Louis if he wanted.
That leaves lawmakers and perhaps Nixon in the untenable position of discussing public spending for a project that the team’s owner could easily afford.
Missouri could pursue one-time tax credits for the stadium — it chipped in $50 million to renovate the Truman Sports Complex. But $50 million in tax credits wouldn’t begin to pay for upgrades or a new stadium in St. Louis.
The Rams’ saga hasn’t ended yet. The other NFL owners will weigh in, and other teams are eyeing the lucrative Los Angeles market. There also are legal considerations.
But it’s difficult to see any scenario resulting in substantial state support for a new football palace in St. Louis, Nixon’s efforts notwithstanding.
A headline Monday on the website of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch declared the Rams “lame ducks.” Jay Nixon can sympathize.