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Our Opinion: Political frost warnings on tax cut veto

Brrrrrr.

Political frost warnings have been posted.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s announcement last week that he would freeze more than $400 million in state spending met with an equally frosty reception from the GOP.

At issue is a Republican-sponsored tax cut plan previously vetoed by the governor.

Nixon contended he could not authorize the spending while the possibility exists that Republicans will override his veto and implement the tax cut.

He said: “With a price tag of at least $800 million annually, (the tax cut) would undermine our fiscal foundation now and for years to come.” He called the measure “a dangerous experiment we simply cannot afford.”

The frozen funding, if released by Nixon, would flow to elementary and secondary education, and capital improvements, including repairs at the Capitol. Nixon also suggested a veto override could be detrimental to state employees — resulting in 1,000 layoffs and elimination of pay raises.

Nixon threw down the gauntlet to Republicans, and his message was clear: Defy my veto and face criticism for injuring education, state workers and capital improvements.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, a supporter of the tax cut, accused Nixon of “playing politics with taxpayer money.” The Columbia Republican said: “He’s using it (the spending freeze) as leverage to basically further his opposition to giving Missouri taxpayers back any of their money.”

The governor and GOP also remain at odds over the sufficiency of a “trigger” in the tax cut bill.

Republicans contend the measure contains a safeguard that prevents tax cuts from being triggered unless revenue targets are met. Nixon countered: “The trigger language is very, very uncertain.”

The GOP tax cut has merit, but it contains a fatal, albeit unintended, flaw; it would repeal the tax exemption on prescription drugs.

Nixon’s challenge — in the form of a veto and spending freeze — sets the stage for a showdown with the GOP.

And the consequences of that showdown could be detrimental to Missourians — either by repealing a tax exemption on medications or by freezing specific state spending.

We would prefer tax cut legislation to be revived in a future session, not only to make it more politically palatable, but to eliminate its defects and improve its safeguards and benefits.

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