Sept. 12--JEFFERSON CITY -- Gov. Jay Nixon scored two key victories as the Republican-controlled Legislature failed to override his vetoes of legislation that aimed to cut income taxes and nullify federal gun laws Wednesday.
The tax cut bill and the anti-gun control measure were among key priorities for Republicans as they returned to the Capitol this week to try to overrule the Democratic governor on more than two dozen bills that he struck down.
But despite holding historic supermajorities in both the House and Senate, Republicans couldn't muster enough votes on the two high-profile override attempts after Nixon, a former attorney general, launched a summer-long campaign against the tax cut measure and raised several legal questions about the gun bill.
Still, lawmakers managed to hand Nixon a record number of defeats -- overriding the governor on 10 bills including measures that will cap punitive damages in lawsuits against the Doe Run Co. at $2.5 million per lawsuit, make it harder for some drivers to sue after accidents, allow payday loan companies to raise their interest rates, and protect federal holidays like Christmas.
Legislative leaders also vowed to continue pushing for a tax cut bill next year, which they say will spur economic development and make Missouri more competitive with its neighboring states.
"This is only a temporary setback for the majority of House members who believe substantive tax relief is the best way to grow our economy and to help the hard-working Missourians who deserve to keep more of their hard-earned dollars," said House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka.
Nixon, who characterized the tax cut legislation as poorly drafted and harmful to education funding, hailed the unsuccessful override attempt as "a defining moment for our state and a victory for all Missourians."
"This was a turning point ... (for) issues that really matter," he said.
The effort to override Nixon's veto had been bolstered by a newly formed coalition of Missouri business groups and a media campaign largely funded by wealthy St. Louis investor Rex Sinquefield.
Passed in the final days of the regular session after months of debate and revisions, the tax cut legislation was viewed by many Republicans as a key accomplishment. But Nixon immediately seized on several apparent flaws, including provisions that he said would raise the costs of prescription drugs and college textbooks while creating a hole in the state budget.
The legislation sought to lower the top personal income tax rate by one-half of a percentage point, to 5.5 percent. The corporate tax rate would have been reduced by 3 percentage points, to 3.25 percent. The cuts would have been phased in over 10 years.
The centerpiece of the bill was a 50 percent tax cut, phased in over five years, for businesses that "pass through" their income to the owner's personal return.
In the end, the House defeated the override with only 94 of the required 109 members supporting it.
"While today brought with it disappointment, we are encouraged and energized by the support we were able to amass in a such short period of time and by the conversation we have sparked regarding the need for tax reform here in Missouri," said Grow Missouri Coalition treasurer Aaron Willard.
Working late into the evening Wednesday, lawmakers still had an opportunity to override several of Nixon's other vetoes from this year's legislative session. The veto session showed a stark contrast from previous years, when lawmakers have attempted few -- if any -- overrides. The previous record for overrides in a single year was the Legislature's three in 2003.
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