Wednesday, September 11 marked an important anniversary in our nation's history. Twelve years ago the al Qaeda attack on the U.S. began when the first airliner crashed into the Twin Towers in New York. Another crashed into the Towers less than an hour later, one would crash into the Pentagon, and the fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania. Certainly a day that changed America's relationship with the world. With this in mind, the General Assembly opened its Veto Session with a moment of silence for those lost in the attack.
This year's Veto Session proved to be historic. Governor Nixon vetoed 29 bills, the second most in history. The legislature eventually overturned 10, a modern record. Vetoes of the two most controversial bills failed.
HB 436 passed out of the House, but failed in the Senate. The bill insured the Second Amendment rights of Missourians. The controversy here centered on a provision concerning state vs. federal authority. The bill came up two votes short in the Senate.
HB 253, the tax cut bill, also failed without making it out of the House. Designed to stimulate job growth in Missouri, the governor withheld funds from education and other vital services such as mental health to ultimately defeat the measure. Whereas some considered the governor's threat of deficient funding to be legitimate, his history shows another side.
To give a sampling, in 2010 the governor withheld $70 million from K-12 education and $50 million from higher education. Of the $275 million he withheld in 2011, the highest portion came from higher education and student scholarships. Perhaps the most egregious came with the FY2013 withholdings, a total of $150 million. The governor's justification was relief and rebuilding in Joplin after the devastating tornado. The disaster total came to $36 million, but the governor released only $38 million. This resulted in a lawsuit from state Auditor Tom Schweich.
Unfortunately, lost in all this debate would have been the benefits from HB 253. Such measures have a proven track record of success. Oklahoma is a prime example of tax cuts growing the economy and providing more revenue through increased economic activity (that is, more jobs) for state services such as education and mental health. Oklahoma lowered their tax rate incrementally from 2005 through 2011 in a fashion very similar to HB 253. Bureaucratic estimates projected a $150 million deficit, but the reality became a $548 million surplus. In fact, the only glitch to rising state revenues between 2005 and 2012 proved to be the recession of 2008 (reflected in 2009) that certainly was outside any tax policy.
HB 253 would have shifted some taxes to the collection of lost sales tax revenue that out-of-state businesses are not currently required to collect. Emphasis on sales tax is also a plus for Missouri state revenue. Again, taking Oklahoma as an example, the 2008 recession caused a decline in state revenue (as it did nation-wide), but sales tax declined only 9% whereas income tax declined 15%. Sales tax is a steadier stream of revenue.
Certainly, we must provide adequate funding for quality education (I voted to increase education funding this year; although we are constitutionally required to spend 25% of our budget on education, we currently spend 35%). However, training and education will not help Missouri grow in the future if there are no jobs within our state to keep our trained workforce at home. Yes, education and training are needed, and I am a strong proponent; however, these students will spend more time as working adults than as students. We need reasons for people to be in Missouri, and a good job is one of the best reasons to be anywhere; I think that anywhere should be Missouri.
Here is a list and summary of the vetoes overridden by the General Assembly:
Bill No. & Summary
Restores money to capital improvements. (112 for-47 opposed)
Prohibits any state or local governmental entity; public building, park, or school; or public setting or place from banning or restricting the practice, mention, celebration, or discussion of any federal holiday. (114-45)
Changes the laws regarding financial institutions. (109-51)
Requires uninsured motorists to forfeit recovery of noneconomic damages under certain circumstances. (109-51)
Changes the laws regarding the Department of Natural Resources (Doe Run Bill) (110-51).
Changes the laws regarding political subdivisions. (117-44)
Modifies provisions relating to agriculture. (111-50)
Establishes procedures to follow in child custody and visitation cases for military personnel. (109-52)
Establishes the Volunteer Health Services Act to allow for licensed health care professionals to provide volunteer services for a sponsoring organization. (109-52)
Allows members of public governmental bodies to cast roll call votes in a meeting if the member is participating via videoconferencing. (125-32)
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.