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Chamber of Commerce plans TV ad blitz on tax cut bill

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 11, 2013: The Missouri Chamber of Commerce plans to take the airwaves next week in support of overriding Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of tax cut legislation.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce plans to start running this ad on Monday.

The organization announced on Thursday that it would begin a television campaign in support of HB 253, which over time cuts income, business and corporate income taxes. Nixon vetoed the bill in June, and legislators will have the chance to override on Sept. 11.

“Reducing the tax burden on Missouri’s job creators and workers has been part of our agenda for more than a decade. But while legislative efforts have been blocked in Missouri, we’ve watched our neighboring states pass us by,” said Missouri Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dan Mehan in a statement. “We’re this close now and we are ready to fight to see it through. We owe it to all working Missourians.”

Mehan is featured in part of the ad. He tells viewers, among other things, to “encourage your local representatives to follow through on their plan this September.”

Besides the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, two of the other state’s key business groups – the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Associated Industries of Missouri – have forcefully come out in favor of a veto override. The Chamber and others contend the tax cut will make the state more attractive to businesses and let taxpayers keep more of their money.

Those three aforementioned business groups are part of a new group called the Grow Missouri Coalition. And that organization's efforts got a big financial boost today when a $1.3 million donation from retired financer Rex Sinquefield showed up on the Missouri Ethics Commission web site.

Sinquefield -- by far the state's biggest political donor -- funded an push in 2011 to replace the state's income tax with a beefed-up sales tax. Those efforts to put the issue on the ballot were unsuccessful.

The ad campaign is the latest salvo in what's been a fierce back-and-forth between supporters and opponents of the legislation. Progress Missouri -- a progressive-leaning group fighting against the override -- announced earlier this summer that it will use an aerial banner to criticize lawmakers who vote for an override.

Nixon gave a litany of reasons for vetoing the tax cut bill, which he dubbed “an ill-conceived, fiscally irresponsible experiment that would inject far-reaching uncertainty into our economy, undermine our state’s fiscal health and jeopardize basic funding for education and vital public services.” Nixon's budget staff estimated the tax-cut measure would cost the state $800 million a year when fully implemented; backers of the measure contend that the cost would be far less.

Even before the veto, Nixon drew attention to language in the bill that removed a sales exemption for prescription drugs. Boosters of the HB 253 – including Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, and Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit – said that portion of the legislation doesn’t go into effect right away and could be fixed during next year’s legislative session.

The governor perhaps raised the stakes of the veto override even more late last month when he withheld nearly $400 million from the state’s budget, a move he attributed to fears the veto would be overridden.>

At least 23 senators and 109 representatives would have to vote to overturn Nixon’s objection. It’s an open question whether the numbers are there in the House.

It’s highly possible that the three Democrats that voted for the bill – Reps. Ed Schieffer, D-Troy, Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, and Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie – won’t override Nixon. That would mean that all 109 members of the Republican caucus would have to vote for an override, including three – Reps. Dennis Fowler, R-Dexter, Elaine Gannon, R-Jefferson County, and Kent Hampton, R-Malden – who voted against the bill last May.

And the calculus may have gotten even rougher for the Republicans after Rep. Nate Walker, R-Kirksville, told a Kirksville newspaper that he would vote against an override. If Walker sticks to his guns, at least one Democratic lawmaker would have to vote for

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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