Opponents of HB 253 tax cut bill make closing arguments

Monday, September 9, 2013 | 4:10 p.m. CDT; updated 6:14 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 9, 2013

JEFFERSON CITY — Supporters of Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of HB 253 at a press conference Monday continued to push their case that the bill would create a huge revenue shortfall, leading to cuts to public education and other critical social services.

The press conference served as a closing argument in the months-long fight over a tax-cut bill passed in the past legislative session. Nixon vetoed the bill in June and has since traveled the state, making more than 30 appearances to argue the bill is dangerous to state services.

The Missouri General Assembly returns to the Capitol on Wednesday and will have a chance to override Nixon's veto with a two-thirds majority in each house. The bill would phase-in a reduction of income taxes by 0.5 percent over 10 years as well as reduce corporate taxes.

Carter Ward, executive director of the Missouri School Boards' Association, spoke Monday on behalf of a coalition of more than 40 education, community and progressive groups that have organized under the banner of Coalition for Missouri’s Future and lobbied legislators to sustain Nixon's veto.

“We feel the momentum is certainly with our side,” Ward said.

If the veto is overridden and the tax cuts go into effect, Missouri School Boards' Association president-elect and Jefferson City school board member Doug Whitehead said public schools across the state would be forced to lay off teachers, increase class sizes and eliminate after-school programs.

“Our kids will face a competitive disadvantage because of their state’s disinvestments in education,” Whitehead said.

Ward expressed optimism that the governor’s effort to sustain his veto would pay off when the legislature convenes later this week. But he expects a similar tax-cut measure will be introduced when the new legislative session opens in January, with fixes to some of the most contentious provisions.

“Proponents (of the bill) have already said they will see us in January,” Ward said. “It’s a foregone conclusion that this will be back.”

Ward and Whitehead said they would be open to tax reform so long as it does not “undermine the needs of the state” but would not provide more specifics about what such legislation might look like.

In an editorial sent to media outlets Monday, House Speaker Tim Jones argued HB 253 would attract people and businesses from other states, creating a larger tax base for Missouri. He cited tax cuts under the Reagan and Kennedy administrations and more recent legislation passed in Oklahoma and Tennessee as examples of reforms that led to economic growth.

“By overriding Gov. Nixon’s veto of House Bill 253, we have a chance to modernize our tax system and lower the financial burden for every Missourian for the first time in more than 90 years. The simple reforms contained in this bill would help Missouri compete for new jobs and pave the way for the growth our state desperately needs,” Jones wrote.

Supervising editor is Gary Castor.

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