JEFFERSON CITY — Rep. Keith English, D-Florissant, received a personal escort to his seat in the Missouri House of Representatives on Tuesday. Rep. Ron Hicks, R-St.Peters, walked with him to his seat to vote.
English became a pariah to his party and a hero to the other as he cast the deciding vote to override a veto on a cut to income taxes. Republicans gave him a standing ovation as he voted.
Gov. Jay Nixon had vetoed SB 509, which could cut taxes by $620 million, but the Senate and House overrode his veto Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
The House voted 109 -46, the exact number of votes needed, for the override,. All Republicans voted for the bill, and the only Democrat voting for the override was English. This is the first income tax cut in nearly a century for Missouri.
Debate on the veto override was cut off before it began.
The bill would cut the top income tax bracket, which is currently 6 percent, by 0.1 percent each year that revenue increases by $150 million, starting in 2017. This reduction would happen until the top bracket, which taxes income over $9,000, was reduced to 5.5 percent,which is how much the income between $8,000 and $9,000 is taxed.
The bill also has a $500 deduction for people making under $20,000 and cuts taxes on income from business transactions.
Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill because he had a different interpretation of how much the bill would cost voters, $4.8 billion, which is about eight times more than was intended with the bill.
The bill says the top tax bracket “shall be eliminated” once the top tax rate is reduced to 5.5 percent. Nixon interpreted this as eliminating all taxes on income over $9,000. He said in a news conference last week that this would remove 97 percent of the tax base in the state.
Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, was about to speak on the bill before debate was cut off. He had planned to say that this bill is “incredibly sloppy,” and it would not survive a challenge in court because he agrees with Nixon’s interpretation.
In an earlier interview with the Missourian, Kelly said he would not vote for another bill in the House that would raise taxes by a similar margin because of this veto override. The bill would raise the sales tax by three-quarters of a cent to fund transportation infrastructure and would generate a similar amount to what is being cut.
"I cannot justify lowering taxes on lobbyists, and increasing them on senior citizens," Kelly said. "I can’t justify taking the money from education and transferring it to highways, which is exactly what’s happening here."
Kelly initially voted for the bill, but he said the way Republicans are cutting and raising taxes with these two bills is hypocritical.
English approached the House leadership about voting "yes" on the override. House Majority Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, said in a news conference that nothing was offered to English, and he didn’t ask for anything in return for his vote.
English is running unopposed in the Democratic primary this year, and will face Republican candidate Becky Sharma, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
Boone County legislators voted along party lines except for Rep. John Wright, D-Rocheport, who was absent for the vote.
Supervising editor is Gary Castor.