So Rex Sinquefield called Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon “an idiot” during a forum in Washington on Thursday.
Nixon has undoubtedly been called worse. And besides, he’s having a good summer, racing around the state condemning the GOP-dominated General Assembly for its “Friday free-for-all” and “special interest spending spree.” And, oh yea, a “grab bag of giveaways.”
If Sinquefield, the meddling multimillionaire from St. Louis, is going to feud publicly with the governor, he’s going to have to step up his alliteration.
Another summer, another tax fight in Missouri. This latest round has brought a couple of things into focus.
First, Nixon, the Democratic governor, has claimed the high ground as the voice of fiscal responsibility in Missouri.
His outrage over the legislature’s last-day flurry of tax break bills is totally on point. They would cost the state more than $400 million, by Nixon’s calculations, and cities and counties would take a hit as well.
Tim Jones, the Republican House Speaker, has fired back at Nixon, saying the tax breaks are “much-needed clarifications to our tax laws that will prevent the governor from exceeding his authority by unfairly collecting more taxes from our employers who create the family-supporting jobs that drive our economic engine.”
As rebuttals go, that one is lame.
Bills that pick winners and loser by granting tax breaks to selected interests are not “clarifications” to the tax laws. They are giveaways, pure and simple. And some of these latest ones were done with little discussion and thought.
As Nixon has been noting on Twitter, the legislative session ended two weeks ago and Republicans have yet to offer an explanation as to how they expect the state budget that they passed to remain in balance after they passed $400 million worth of tax breaks. Neither have they explained why the most costly bill they passed, a tax break for data processing centers, omits protections such as job-creation quotas and capital-investment requirements.
There’s also the income-tax cut the legislature felt compelled to pass, which favors wealthy individuals and will eventually cost Missouri more than $600 million a year.
Nixon didn’t have the political capital to sustain his veto of the legislature’s damaging income tax cut, unfortunately. That’s his own fault. He didn’t provide financial help to Democratic candidates in the last election and he isn’t good at building relationships in the Capitol. But he had the right arguments.
At his Washington D.C. forum, which was sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and moderated by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Sinquefield said he and his paid “political army” were committed to getting rid of Missouri’s income tax. But “we have to get a new governor,” he said.
Now that is unnerving. Nixon leaves office in 2017 and Sinquefield clearly will pay whatever it takes to control his successor. He and his affiliated Missouri Club for Growth already have dropped $150,000 into Republican Catherine Hanaway’s campaign fund.
Sinquefield in the past has also contributed generously to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who is the leading contender to be the Democratic nominee in the 2016 governor’s race.
The Heritage forum, which also featured the huckster economist Arthur Laffer, was full of praise for Brownback and his draconian income tax cuts.
“There is no state more transformed than Kansas,” Brownback himself proclaimed.
He’s got that right. Kansas is broke, schools are underfunded, a bond rating agency has downgraded the state’s credit rating, the state is robbing from the highway fund to pay routine expenses and cities and counties are hurting from the state’s fiscal policies.
If that’s transformation, please save Missouri from it. And from Rex Sinquefield and his gigantic ego and bank account.
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bshelly.