Is the Missouri income tax standoff over already? It looks like it.
House Speaker Tim Jones has told St Louis Public Radio and The Beacon online newspaper that he won’t bring House Bill 253 up for a veto override unless some members of the Republican caucus change their minds about voting against it.
“Unless those individuals (who are now against the bill) look me in the eye and say ‘Mr. Speaker, I'm going to vote for the override,’ then there’s no reason for me to bring it up,” Jones told reporters.
OK, sensible Republicans. Stay out of the speaker’s line of sight. It’s a relief to know that enough members of the Missouri House are smart enough and independent enough to recognize a dog of a bill when they see it.
House Bill 253 calls for generous income tax cuts for certain types of businesses, and it cuts the top personal income tax rate by a half of one percent. Middle-income taxpayers would see few benefits. Lawmakers had intended the cuts to be phased in over a period of years, but Gov. Jay Nixon pointed out scenarios under which the state could begin losing revenues as early as this fiscal year.
Nixon, a Democrat, ordered a hold on some forms of spending in anticipation of the cuts taking place. His veto message pointed out a host of problems with the bill, including a glitch which revokes a sales tax exemption for prescription drugs. Nixon has been barnstorming the state warning of dire and unintended consequences should House Bill 253 become law.
Based on what Jones is saying, that looks unlikely. It would take a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate to override Nixon’s veto. That would be possible if every Republican in the House voted “aye.” But several have already said they’re leaning in the opposite direction.
Republicans can take heart, however. They have 28 other vetoed bills to attempt to override once the veto session convenes Sept. 11.
But the demise of House Bill 253 would raise the question of what is to become of the — would you believe? — $2.4 million that St. Louis multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield has donated several groups to lobby for a veto override. The luckiest beneficiary, with $1.3 million, is a new group called Grow Missouri, a political action committee. The best guess is they’ll sit on the money and wait for another income tax cut bill next year. Bad ideas never die in the Missouri legislature, they just come back in different forms.
The end of the flawed income tax bill would raise another question: How will Nixon spend his time? He’s been on the road constantly making his case in opposition.
Maybe he’ll just rest on his laurels for awhile. No attempt at an override would be a huge political victory for the governor. But not as big as an override attempt that failed.