Missouri speaker: Tax veto override 'uphill battle'

Exterior view of Biggs Forensic Center located at Fulton State Hospital.

Exterior view of Biggs Forensic Center located at Fulton State Hospital.

Missouri's Republican House speaker said Tuesday that getting enough votes to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a tax cut measure is an "uphill battle," while Nixon said lawmakers can't support the tax bill and investments in the state's mental health hospital.

House Speaker Tim Jones said he hopes to override Nixon's veto. However, he said no final decision has been made and that Republicans will be meeting in August. Lawmakers return to the state Capitol in September, and a successful override would require the vote of every Republican House member or support from some of Nixon's fellow Democrats.

Jones, of Eureka, noted the legislation was short of a two-thirds supermajority when it passed the House this spring.

"My personal opinion and hope is that we do have 109 votes and we are able to override the governor on" the legislation, Jones said. "But to make that happen, I am going to need 108 of my colleagues to join me."

The bill would reduce tax rates for individuals and corporations and create a new deduction for business income reported on individual tax returns. Legislative projections estimated the bill would reduce state revenues by more than $700 million annually after it is fully implemented. Some of the tax cuts are contingent upon growth in state revenues. Nixon says the annual cost would be higher and as much as $1.2 billion in the short term, based upon other provisions in the legislation.

The tax cut was a priority for the Republican-led Legislature and would be the first income tax rate reduction in Missouri since 1921.

Supporters of the tax cut have started a campaign to encourage lawmakers to override the veto, forming the Grow Missouri coalition. Opponents have coalesced under the Coalition for Missouri's Future and include education, labor and health care organizations.

Nixon has highlighted his objections throughout the state and pledged to continue explaining why he thinks his veto must be sustained.

On Tuesday, Nixon toured the Fulton State Hospital. He said the hospital needs to be improved for the safety of staff and the health of patients and that it cannot be done if the veto is overridden. The governor announced in late June the freezing of $400 million for state services, education and repairs because of concerns the veto could be overridden. The spending restrictions include $13 million for planning and designing a new facility at the hospital.

"This is an old, antiquated rambling campus that is both unsafe and unfitting to the responsibilities that are carried on here," Nixon said Tuesday.

The Fulton State Hospital is the only maximum and intermediate security psychiatric hospital in Missouri. Patients include those who have been committed by the courts for evaluation and treatment. It also is the statewide treatment facility for people who have been found not guilty or unable to stand trial because of mental disease. There are more than three dozen buildings on the grounds, including several that are vacant.

Officials would like to build a new high-security facility.

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