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City "Facebook' page briefly urged support for Nixon veto - briefly

City "Facebook' page briefly urged support for Nixon veto - briefly

September 3rd, 2013 in News

Within hours of a News Tribune reporter's interviews last week, a Jefferson City government "Facebook" page posting was removed.

The posting, made by City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus, encouraged support for Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a controversial tax-cuts bill.

But for awhile last Thursday and Friday, the city posting told Mid-Missourians that, if lawmakers override Nixon's veto during next week's General Assembly veto session, Jefferson City could lose an estimated 900 more state employee jobs.

Nickolaus explained: "It's hard to know exactly how many of the jobs would be in Jefferson City.

"But the governor had spoken of ... jobs being lost, and we assume about two-thirds would be in Jefferson City."

Lawmakers passed House Bill 253 in early May, in the next-to-last week of the spring legislative session.

The bill makes a number of changes to the state's tax laws, including a half-percent reduction in the income tax rates over a period of years and an increase in sales tax rates.

Nixon vetoed the bill June 5 and began a summer-long series of appearances around the state to explain why.

At the end of June, Nixon signed the budget bills, but also withheld nearly $401 million in state spending - and ordered Budget Director Linda Luebbering and other administrators "to develop a plan to eliminate another 1,000 full-time employees from the state workforce," if the Legislature overrides the veto.

The governor told reporters on June 11 - even before announcing the withholdings and potential job cuts - that his administration has "worked hard over the last 41⁄2 years to make sure that we right-size government - downsizing state government by 4,500 positions."

"If Jefferson City is going to thrive, we need to keep state jobs here," Nickolaus said. "It's time that the people of Jefferson City start standing up for the state workers. They are us, they are vital to us and we need to protect them."

After declining in-depth comment on Friday, Mayor Eric Struemph said Monday Nickolaus told him Friday the post had been removed.

"I think a policy issue like that - a policy issue coming from the city - should be something that the City Council votes on," the mayor said.

When asked about that, Nickolaus said: "We post things on Facebook all the time and, obviously, we can't run all of them by the City Council.

"The Missouri Municipal League, obviously, is opposed to the override, and they'd asked all their member cities - of which we are one - to support them on Facebook."

Support or opposition to Nixon's veto generally has followed political party lines.

"There's always the down side of taking a side - it's easier, sometimes, to stay on the sidelines. But, I really see this as an economic development issue, really more than a political issue," Nickolaus acknowledged.

He noted the city already is losing nearly 500 jobs when R.R. Donnelley closes its Jefferson City plant in the two weeks beginning Oct. 1.

"We don't want to lose more jobs," Nickolaus said. "In Jefferson City, it would be very difficult to overcome the loss of that many jobs."

The city administrator expects Nixon "would carry out that threat, if the veto was overridden."

The city's Facebook posting last week included a quote from an Aug. 2 St. Louis Business Journal editorial: "This veto should be sustained. Mr. Jones and his fellow lawmakers should focus on how to create meaningful change in a businesslike manner."