JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Democrats are looking to circle the wagons while Republicans are counting heads in the House on a promised attempt to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 509, a tax cut bill.
Nixon vetoed the bill late Thursday afternoon after spending two weeks barnstorming around the state, saying the cut would gut funds for education and health services and claiming a drafting error could eliminate 97 percent of Missouri’s income tax revenue.
Republicans called Nixon’s claim of an error “absurd” and say the slow phase-in and built in revenue triggers to the $620 million tax cut are fiscally sound. But while Nixon and Republicans clash publicly over the bill, a frantic whipping process is taking place in the House.
In the lower chamber, Republicans are one vote shy of holding a veto-proof majority, meaning that the entire 108-person caucus needs to be present and vote as a block and pick up at least one Democrat in order to override Nixon. During the initial vote, Democrat and Jefferson County Senate candidate Jeff Roorda was the long Democrat to vote for the bill. Roorda declined to comment on his vote on an override, and said he was “engaged in continuing dialogue with folks on both sides of the issue.”
A handful of Republicans were absent for the vote to send the bill to Nixon, but several of those members confirmed to The Missouri Times that they intended to override Nixon. Representatives Kevin Engler, Casey Guernsey, both said they’d override the Governor. Rep. TJ Berry, who sponsored last year’s vetoed tax cut, has also publicly confirmed his desire to override. Representatives Sue Entlicher, Bryan Spencer and Bill Reiboldt did not respond to requests for comment.
Conservative organizers, like Carl Bearden of United4MO, are feeling confident about next week’s vote. Bearden, who publicly chided Republicans last year that bucked the party vote and sustained Nixon’s veto, said those same members deserved at least some praise.
“The work those folks have done to make this a better bill, I commend them for that,” Bearden said. “They’ve improved a lot about this bill and the way they’ve stayed in the game and been part of this discussion to get this bill, I appreciate that work.”
Democrats and Nixon are scrambling to pressure Republicans into rejecting an override, arguing that education and state-funded services will be gutted and hoping to bring public opinion down on moderate Republicans. And in the House, Democrats must secure their own caucus and convince even those members in tight races to reject a tax cut in an election year.
“As of right now, I think it wil be a close vote,” said House Minority Whip John Rizzo. “But politics changes hourly. Moody’s downgrading of Kansas — who tried a similar reckless bill like this — that could really change how people see this, and politics changes hourly. So right now I’m focused on putting out fires before they start and keeping in contact with everyone.”
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.