Nixon: Vetoes not political

Gov. Jay Nixon wasn’t trying to set the record for vetoes of proposed laws this year — but he came close.

Nixon vetoed a total of 29 bills from the 150 lawmakers sent him from the 2013 General Assembly. That’s six more than the 23 he rejected four years ago, his first as governor — but seven fewer than the modern record, 35, set by then-Gov. John M. Dalton in 1961, his first year in office.

“Every bill that comes to my desk gets the same comprehensive and thorough review,” Nixon told reporters in his Capitol office Friday, “which often uncover drafting errors, unintended consequences and other negative impacts.

“But, especially when it comes to bills that would raise taxes or otherwise hurt Missouri families, I think it’s my responsibility to make sure they don’t become law.”

Supporters of some of the vetoed measures accused Nixon of playing politics or helping groups that he likes with the measures he chose to reject or pass.

But the governor rejects that idea.

“People throw that word around a lot in discourse in this building and in the country,” he said, “but at this time in my career — as you sit here at this table, working hour after hour trying to make what you think are the best calls not only for Missourians today but for Missourians a year from now or 10 years from now — it just doesn’t get in your head (asking) ‘How does this help me?’

“And I find sometimes that people make that argument when they are unwilling to have a substantive discussion about the underlying importance of the issue.”

Additionally, Nixon noted, “The constitution prohibits me from staying here after 31⁄2-years from now, so I’m not exactly sure what (political) analysis that would entail.”

Some political observers think the governor will challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican, who will be seeking his second term in 2016.

But Nixon has made no comment on his future political or job goals when he leaves the governor’s office in January 2017.

Nixon is in his fifth year as governor, after winning the office in 2008, at the end of his 16 years as Missouri’s attorney general — the longest anyone headed the state’s law office.

“The public’s been very generous in allowing me to serve for a number of years,” the governor said Friday. “I think I have a real good sense of where Missourians are. ...

“I articulate what I think the vast majority of Missourians support, and the principles that I govern with,” whenever he decides to sign or reject a bill that lawmakers passed.

Missouri’s constitution also lets the governor let a bill become law without his signature — and he let that happen last week with four bills.

He told reporters he didn’t want to sign them, indicating his approval — but also didn’t think it was worth vetoing them, then trying to convince lawmakers that they shouldn’t override those vetoes during the constitutionally required veto session which, this year, will be on Sept. 11.

The vetoed-bills total doesn’t include line-item vetoes in appropriations measures. Nixon had four of those this year.

In his Friday morning news conference, the governor explained: “For the past several weeks, members of my administration and I have carefully reviewed every piece of legislation passed by the General Assembly this year.

“This process serves a simple, but vital, purpose — making sure that the good bills passed by the General Assembly become law, and the bad ones don’t.”

Nixon said some of the lawmakers’ 2013 bills “represent well-drafted, bipartisan efforts to address important issues (like) shoring up our insolvent Second Injury Fund, streamlining our business incentives and helping our returning veterans transition back into civilian life.”

But those measures he vetoed “fell far short” of good government standards, he said.

“Some would have violated our state and federal constitutions, others raised taxes and unnecessarily hiked fees,” Nixon said. “Still others sought solutions to problems that don’t exist, while creating real problems for Missouri families.”

The governor will spend at least part of his time between now and mid-September explaining to the public — and to lawmakers — why his vetoes should be sustained.

In addition, the constitution requires that he include his “reasons for disapproval” with any vetoed bill.

The governor’s veto letters are available on his website, www.gov.mo.gov, under “Legislative Actions.”

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