As discussed in the Regional Editorial “Our Take...” this past Monday, the debate over House Bill 253 has continued to rage on. This continues past the veto from Governor Jay Nixon, and through many differing sets of facts that sources all over the debate continue to provide.
H.B. 253 was vetoed in early June. At the time, Gov. Nixon made the following comment through his official website:
“With a price tag of $800 million, this legislation is an ill-conceived, fiscally irresponsible experiment that would hurt our economy and jeopardize funding for vital public services,” Gov. Nixon said. “Writing a bad check and saying you’ll figure out a way to pay for it later might make sense in Washington, DC and some other states, but it’s not how we do things in Missouri.”
But, with the checks and balances in place through the Constitution, the Legislature can make use of their override power. Whether or not this happens is yet to be seen. However, this has not stopped both supporters and detractors from flooding the internet with differing facts about the impact this legislation would have.
Education Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Lair weighed in on the legislation in a telephone interview: “I definitely think its a candidate for a veto to be overturned. Its just like the Medicaid expansion debate last year, everyone has their opinion, and everyone makes up their own data.”
Lair continued: “This data differs diametrically. You can’t figure out two sets of data that give you more different information than what has been presented with this legislation.”
The initial purpose of H.B. 253 was to change the tax laws in Missouri. This would be done by reducing income tax, and increasing sales tax. These changes would be made incrementally over a number of years.
The issue with changing income tax revenue is that education is funded from the general fund. The fear is that reducing income tax would create a spending gap in the fund. In anticipation of this, Gov. Nixon withheld $400 million recently.
Said Nixon of his withholding, “There’s no joy in making these cuts today,” Nixon said. “But Missouri has maintained fiscal discipline and it’s Triple A credit rating in large part because we make plans, we prepare for everything and we balance our budget.”
Nixon continued, “You can either be for Missouri public education, or you can be for House Bill 253. But you can’t be for both.”
But this claim has sparked controversy from opposition in the Legislature.
“[Gov.] Nixon has claimed to be the ‘education governor,’” said Rep. Lair. “But then he holds back money from education. We had $700 million more revenue come in than we had projected last year. We have that money left over, yet he immediately takes $100 million from education and pigeon-holes it.”