Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes of costly tax breaks protect Missouri’s taxpayers

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday signed into law a state measure against bad-faith patent claims.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday signed into law a state measure against bad-faith patent claims. The Associated Press

Standing up for the rights of most Missouri taxpayers, Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed a series of bills that would have let special interests skate on paying their fair share of taxes just because they have the political muscle to get their way.

The Republican-controlled legislature endorsed many of the tax breaks on the final day of the 2014 session, without adequate discussion of the merits or consequences of their actions — such as blowing a hole of up to $425 million in the next state budget.

It would be unwise to slash into revenues so deeply that it threatened funding for public schools, universities and services for six million residents.

“Passing secret, sweetheart deals so that the well-connected can pay less, while asking all Missourians to pay more, reflects priorities that are dangerously out of whack,” Nixon said Wednesday.

The fact that the GOP earlier in the session had approved a tax cut that favors the wealthy — then overrode Nixon’s proper veto of that bill — also factored into the governor’s thinking. Missouri already has done more than enough this year to grant special tax breaks to the well-connected.

The legislature’s “Friday favors” included a wide range of tax exemptions for motor fuels used at marinas, large commercial laundries, fast food restaurants and power companies, and transactions involving used manufactured homes and locally grown produce at farmer’s markets.

With his actions, the Democratic governor injected needed fiscal responsibility into the debate over how the state can best finance the services its residents deserve.

Working themselves into full outrage mode, Republicans on Wednesday already were talking about trying to override the vetoes in a September session.

That’s an unwelcome possibility, but at least it could provide GOP leaders with opportunities to actually debate these tax breaks and try to explain why they might be good for the entire state.

Or, the Republicans could stay locked into their ill-considered mantra that all taxes are bad and they need to be reduced.

As Nixon noted, he may have to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars for state-financed institutions and programs in the budget year that begins July 1, waiting to see whether his vetoes are sustained. The blame for creating a dire sense of fiscal uncertainty in Missouri would fall squarely in the laps of the Republican majority in Jefferson City.