JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Governor Eric Greitens issued his first veto on Wednesday, striking down a bill that sought to match funds toward a new arts facility for the UKMC campus.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the governor said his decision to veto HCR 19 was made because it would have asked Missouri taxpayers to pay for a new building.
“Politicians are addicted to spending your money. This year, they passed a bill that would put taxpayers on the hook for over $75 million to build and run a conservatory for dancers and art students. I’m vetoing the bill, and I’m ready to fight them on this,” Greitens said. “They had no plan for who would pay the bills—about $55 million in state debt and interest and $20 million in operating costs.
“I’m a conservative outsider. And I told you that I’d act as a budget hawk and protect your money. And that’s what we’re doing.”
But, prior to the governor’s veto announcement, the University of Missouri System announced earlier in the day that they will develop plans to get the funding instead of seeking the state’s 50-50 match program for capital projects.
“This approach will allow construction to begin sooner and save money by avoiding construction cost inflation on a project that will benefit the students of UMKC, the people of Kansas City and the state of Missouri,” UM System President Mun Choi said. “This is a strategic investment to support our key goals in academics and scholarship. That makes it a priority for the UM System and UMKC.”
You can read more of from the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s statement here.
Gov. Greitens applauded that plan, saying they had committed to developing a detailed plan to “pay for it by making tough budget decisions and using private funds along with strong leaders in the Kansas City community.
“That’s how it should be.”
“I think a lot of the good people in Jefferson City agree with me. In the rush of the legislative session, some were not aware of the potential hidden costs of this project. Still, you’ll hear a few politicians threaten to override my veto. That’s their decision to make.,” Greitens said. “I am proud to veto this bill and glad that we have university and community leaders who are working to take Missouri in a new direction. With my veto today, we are changing the way business is done in Missouri.”
“I’m disappointed that the Governor has vetoed bipartisan legislation that would benefit UMKC and the Greater Kansas City area,” said Sen. Jason Holsman, the Senate sponsor for the bill. “This effort is too important to the region to die on the Governor’s veto pen and I will continue to work with university and community leaders to help make this project a reality. Furthermore, it is increasingly bizarre the way this governor talks about every situation like a playground bully and treats every public entity as an enemy. UMKC is a great institution with outstanding students, and they deserve more than to be insulted by their Governor.”
“Eric Greitens talks a great deal about economic development, but his veto of HCR 19 exposes his words as the empty rhetoric of a professional politician. The UMKC arts campus is a top priority of the Kansas City business community because of the much-needed economic boost it will deliver to downtown,” House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, said. “With $48 million in private donations already secured, university and city leaders have done exceptional work in getting the project to this point, and I am confident they will overcome the governor’s political interference to eventually make it a reality. Unfortunately, the extra hurdles the governor has erected will delay the jobs and economic benefits the downtown campus ultimately will generate for Kansas City.”
The bill did, however, pass the General Assembly with a veto-proof majority, 28-4 in the Senate 28-4 and 117-39 in the House. Whether the legislators will seek to override the veto remains to be seen.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.