Consistency is a virtue guided by principle, another virtue.
On the topic of tax credits, Gov. Jay Nixon has been inconsistent.
The governor on Tuesday vetoed repeal of a tax credit for low-income seniors and disabled residents who live in rental housing.
Nixon reiterated his position that he would accept the piecemeal measure only as part of his preference for comprehensive reform of the Missouri tax incentives.
We agree with the governor's stated principle. We are puzzled, however, by his departure from principle earlier this session when he approved a stand-alone tax credit to attract sporting events to Missouri.
A brief history may be helpful.
Nixon in 2010 created the Bi-Partisan Tax Credit Review Commission to review the state's 61 tax credit programs.
The panel produced a 55-page report that recommended eliminating 28 programs and improving 30 others, for a combined savings estimated at $220 million during the following five years.
Until this session, lawmakers largely have avoided action on tax credit reform, in part because of disagreements concerning the pluses and minuses of tax incentives.
Nixon's principled preference for comprehensive reform remains on the legislative table as the clock ticks nearer to Friday's 6 p.m. deadline.
And - although he rejected the newest piecemeal offering - he has not done so throughout the session.
Earlier this year, lawmakers advanced and the governor signed legislation authorizing $3 million annually in state subsidies to local governments and non-profit groups to attract sporting events.
In addition, he signed a measure to reinstate tax credits for donations to specific charitable organizations, including food pantries, pregnancy resource centers and child crisis nurseries.
Consistent adherence to principles is commendable among elected officials.
Nixon's deviations, however, have eroded the bedrock of principle on this issue.
In the absence of principle, we are prompted to wonder what guides his pen to sign or veto piecemeal tax credit legislation?