For the last decade, Republicans have held the majority in the state’s General Assembly. As a result, the governor, who ran as a moderate on his way to re-election last November, has steered clear of any serious confrontation with Republican lawmakers.
Now serving his final four years, Nixon says he has an “opportunity to get things done,” even if it means butting heads with the GOP.
Among the issues he has taken up is a proposed tax cut that Republicans argue would generate new businesses and jobs, eventually boosting Missouri’s revenue. The bill would cut the corporate tax rate in half, as well as halve the income taxes business owners declare on personal returns. It would also increase sales taxes.
Nixon vetoed the proposed bill this summer, and has since turned much of his state against it.
Rather than arguing over the bill’s ability to boost state revenue, Governor Nixon has shifted the focus to how the bill would affect public resources, primarily education services.
Nixon says that passing the bill – which came after neighboring states, such as Kansas, passed similar tax reductions — would put several thousand teachers’ jobs in jeopardy, resulting in larger class sizes and less effective schools.
“We cannot move the economy forward by dramatically defunding education in this state,” the governor argued, according to Reuters.
He added: “When I sit across the table from business folks, they are not saying ‘I need a break on my taxes.’ What they are saying is we need trained workers and we need people with degrees.”
The governor is no longer alone in the fight against the tax cut; he is now joined by over a hundred of the state’s school boards that also believe the state’s education standards would decline as a result of tax cuts that could force schools to lay off teachers and cut various programs for students. The many school boards have now passed resolutions supporting the veto and are joined by The Missouri National Education Association, a teachers’ union, which is using money to block the bill.
After having made 29 appearances since July 15 to defend his veto, Nixon’s argument seems to have also resonated with several Republicans. As of Monday, House Republicans still had not gathered the 109 votes they need to override the governor’s veto.
Representative Elaine Gallon (R), a former teacher, cited “the years that we [teachers] had our salary frozen” and had to “do the best job as educators with what we had” as the reason behind her stance against her party’s bill.
“There’s ways that our districts could improve more if they had more access to funds, and the last thing we need to do is take away from what we’ve already got,” she added.
Still, Republicans continue to argue that the tax cut would not hurt teachers and would benefit the state in the coming years.
According to the New York Times, Speaker of the Missouri House Timothy Jones (R) accused Nixon of “creating an artificial crisis” and reflecting a “much more partisan, militant attitude.”
The Republican sponsor of the bill, Representative T.J. Berry, says the “argument that Republicans are against public education and we don’t care about kids…is garbage.”
Other Republicans who support the tax cut argue that Nixon is withholding $400 million in revenue for schools and other services. Nixon says that he is withholding the money just in case the tax cut becomes law, but will release it if the veto is sustained.
Yet, with all the support the governor is receiving, Representative Berry now believes that the “percentage chance of an override is small.”
As Republican optimism withers, Governor Nixon maintains his firm position on the issue: “The reason why I have put myself and my administration and my body and my mind on the line on this one is that I am fully convinced that it’s the wrong policy for our state.”
Photo: GovernorJayNixon via Flickr.com