It wasn’t supposed to be this way in Missouri politics 2013.
Not this year. Republicans came into January ready to stand toe-to-toe with the state’s Democratic governor, Jay Nixon. That’s after they emerged from the November elections with 110 of the House’s 163 members in their corner and 24 of the state Senate’s 34 members.
That’s a super-majority, meaning if all those members hung together, they could overcome any veto that Nixon threw their way.
In other words, Republicans ruled. They didn’t need Nixon, and Nixon couldn’t stop them.
“The checkmate that he possesses in the form of a veto is now equaled by the overwhelming numbers that we have in the House and Senate,” House Speaker Tim Jones said after those big November wins.
But that’s not the way it’s playing out.
Republicans head into the veto session next month on the brink of absorbing defeat — not exultant victory. That includes the cornerstone issue of the brief session, which is Nixon’s veto of a major tax bill that would cut the state’s income tax rate for the first time in more than 90 years.
Nixon charges that the bill could cut state revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars a year. “Ill-conceived,” he calls it.
Republicans say the cuts are needed to help Missouri compete with Kansas for jobs. Essential, they call it.
But it’s clear that momentum is on Nixon’s side heading down the stretch. Reporter Rudi Keller at the Columbia Daily Tribune wrote the other day that Republicans appear to be 10 votes short.
This, on a bedrock GOP issue of cutting taxes. This, when conservative gazillionaire Rex Sinquefield is pouring hundreds of thousands into TV ads to render the veto moot.
Nixon has toured the state in his relentless Nixon way, stirring up school administrators and others destined to get hit if the cuts go through.
The Big Mo is on Nixon’s side. It’s the power of one — in this case, a governor fully engaged.
On Wednesday, he was in Kansas City and St. Louis on another issue. This one concerns a measure that Nixon said would result in the names ofhundreds of sex offenders being removed from registries
. The governor’s office emphasized the point by arranging giant posters of offenders’ mug shots along with their offenses next to his podium.
Jones is saying the bill “is ripe for an override.” But a p.r. blitz like that will be mighty hard to overcome.
Again, it’s the power of one.
Jones must corral 109 votes to be successful. That’s a tough task in a term-limits era when many lawmakers are looking to run for higher office.
With defeat in the offing, Jones needs a face-saver of at least one successful override. To get it, he’ll have to overcome the power of one.