Texas Gov. Rick Perry jumped into Missouri's income tax
debate with both boots Thursday, in a St. Louis-area speech slamming fellow Gov.
Jay Nixon's veto of a tax-cut bill and imploring a legislative override as part
of a national movement.
"This legislature can send a message all across the country that Missouri is back open for business," said Perry, a former GOP presidential candidate.
"This veto override is about the future of this state," Perry said, whipping the crowd into cheers at several points. " ... Make this happen! Grow Missouri! Override that veto!"
Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of pro-business conservative and Republican leaders at the DoubleTree Hotel in Chesterfield, Perry met head-on charges that he has been trying to pilfer jobs from Missouri with a round of radio ads. He argued that interstate competition for business leads states to institute more business-friendly policies.
"You can be a part of a Renaissance in America," said Perry. "You can be part of states competing against each other. I think it makes all the sense in the world."
Perry has been making waves in Missouri recently with radio ads here touting Texas' business environment. And he has bluntly joined forces with Missouri Republicans against Nixon, a Democrat, on the tax-cut issue, which will come to a head in the Legislature's veto session next month.
House Bill 253, passed by the Missouri Legislature this year and vetoed by Nixon, would lower the state's top personal income tax rate to 5.5 percent from 6 percent, and the corporate tax rate by 3 points, to 3.25 percent.
Supporters claim it will spur economic growth by leaving more money in people's hands, and have been trying to rally lawmakers for an override of the veto next month.
Nixon claims it will hurt education, health care and other state services that he says will have to be cut by some $800 million to make up the lost revenue, while primarily helping the rich.
Nixon has been lobbying around the state against the veto override campaign -- and slamming Perry for ads that highlight the veto in an effort to woo Missouri employers to Texas.
"Unfortunately your governor vetoed a bill that would have lowered taxes and controlled wasteful spending," Perry says in the ad. It's part of an ongoing broader campaign by the Texan to lobby employers from other states to move to Texas.
Nixon has been especially critical that the event was co-hosted by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.
"As an organization that purports to represent the interests of Missouri businesses, the Missouri Chamber (of Commerce) should support activities that seek to strengthen our economy -- not undermine it," Nixon wrote in a letter sent this week to chamber members. "Engaging in a respectful debate about the appropriate tax policy for our state is one thing but campaigning to take jobs from hardworking Missouri families is another."
Perry defended the chamber Thursday in an interview with the Post-Dispatch.
The chamber "is totally on the side of Missouri businesses. They do not agree that the governor should have vetoed a tax cut," said Perry. "They understand that if you reduce the tax burden on job creators," it spurs the economy.
Nixon disputes that the cuts in question would spur the economy. He argues they are geared primarily toward corporations and the wealthy, and also would nix current tax breaks offered on prescription drugs and college textbooks.
Talking to supporters in Richmond Heights on Thursday, Nixon repeated his frequent reminder that the primary financial backer of the override movement is "one individual" -- whom he didn't name, but who is wealthy retired St. Louis investor Rex Sinquefield.
Perry, who some speculate is considering another presidential run, aimed much of his speech at a national level. He said Missouri's coming fight over the tax cut would be a kind of test case between tax philosophies -- and he warned that it's being watched around the country.
"If they see this override not be done ... it's not going to be just Rick Perry that shows up here knocking on the doors of (Missouri) businesses," he said.
Perry repeatedly touted Texas' strong economy and jobs picture, a situation he attributed largely to the state's lack of an income tax, along with pro-business regulatory and tort policies.
Critics have argued that what has actually helped Texas is its huge oil industry, on which that state is heavily reliant. And Nixon has repeatedly pointed out that, although Texas has no income tax, it has higher sales taxes than Missouri.
Perry was preceded on stage by House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, who delivered a heavily partisan speech that focused on GOP support of the tax-cut bill and on criticism of Nixon.
"Jay Nixon has fully rediscovered his ... tax-and-spend roots. But we now have the opportunity to hold his feet to the fire," said Jones.
He said that with the approaching September veto session, Nixon faces the possibility of becoming "the most overridden governor in our state's history."
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