WHAT OTHERS SAY: Loss for flawed tax bill is victory for Missouri

Thursday, September 12, 2013 | 4:27 p.m. CDT

Thanks to effective leadership and a veto from Gov. Jay Nixon, Missouri won’t have to suffer from a reckless tax-cut bill promoted all year by Republican lawmakers.

The House failed to override Nixon’s veto of the measure on Wednesday, the first day of a legislative session that also considered the governor’s actions on bills dealing with guns, labor union dues and other issues.

The decision on House Bill 253 was very significant for Missourians.

It means hundreds of millions in funding for K-12 schools, universities, mental health providers and a host of other state services won’t be endangered by this ill-considered measure.

Despite the GOP’s relentless depiction of the bill as major tax relief, it actually would have provided only small reductions for low- and middle-income Missourians, while doling out much larger benefits for well-off residents and certain types of businesses.

The House fell 15 votes shy of overriding Nixon’s veto — which was exactly the number of Republicans who properly decided the fate of the state’s budget was more important than buckling under pressure from House Speaker Tim Jones and a special interest group led by St. Louis area multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield.

It was a political victory for Nixon, a Democrat, who had to fend off repeated attacks from the Republican supermajority in the House.

And it was a political defeat for Jones, who minutes afterward stated he intended to bring another tax-cut measure to the legislature in its 2014 session.

That means Nixon and others must be fully prepared to endure this economic gamble again, unless someone in the Republican Party responsibly starts working for targeted tax reforms that make sense, such as revamping the state’s tax credit system.

Wednesday’s outcome also puts pressure on Nixon to once again reach out and work with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on a sensible resolution to the extremely costly economic development border war that has gone on for too many years.

It has poached jobs from both states without providing much new income to either — and created few net new jobs for the metropolitan area.

The rejection of House Bill 253 was a strong statement by people who refused to allow Missouri to slip further behind other states when it comes to funding the core services of state government.

As Nixon pointed out to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other interlopers during debate over the bill, Missouri already is a low-tax state.

Give credit, too, to the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, which in June became one of the most influential business groups to take a stand for common sense and against HB 253.

The council’s letter to Nixon, written by Donald Hall, president and chief executive of Hallmark Cards, provided salient objections:

“Missouri has already drastically cut state services, increasing class sizes, raising college tuition and deferring maintenance of Missouri’s roads and bridges. Further tax cuts will only make matters worse, and do nothing to create jobs or make businesses more competitive.”

Among the bill’s many problems: A poorly worded section included a repeal of a sales tax exemption for prescription drugs, which could have cost consumers $200 million a year.

On the other side of the debate were the legislators parroting the thoughts of conservative, often anti-government organizations that tax cuts would lead to a lot more state revenue. “Look at Kansas,” they kept saying.

But that state already is facing fiscal problems because of its excessive tax reductions. Missouri fortunately won’t become the “Me-Too, State” on this issue.

Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.

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