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Nixon Calls out Norquist, SPS Urges Legislators Not to Fight SB 509 Veto

Nixon speaking at the Springfield Public Schools Central Office Tuesday/Credit: Scott Harvey

Ahead of an expected veto of an income tax cut bill, Gov. Jay Nixon continued his push to rally support in Springfield Tuesday, and questioned the credibility of outside interests that are campaigning for a veto override.

The Democratic Governor’s comments came a day after Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist joined Republican House Speaker Tim Jones to challenge Nixon’s arguments on the legislation, which was passed two weeks ago. While the Governor has called education a top priority, Norquist said Nixon’s plan to cut education funding should lawmakers uphold SB 509 tells the people that education is his “lowest priority.”

Speaking before Springfield Public Schools officials, Nixon called Norquist’s comments “political speak” and that Missouri doesn’t need to take budget advice from Washington.

“I’m not in a debate with Grover Norquist because he doesn’t have much credibility for me. When people come from Washington, D.C. and tell me how to do finances my eyes glaze over pretty darn quickly. And then they want to talk politics beyond that? Boy, that’s a solution to the problem. Let’s be fiscally undisciplined, and then let’s come here and try to bark as loud as we can to try and get headlines. That is now what I am going to follow,” Nixon said.

Nixon added that the belief that local control is the best way to operate schools falls in line with that of Missourians making the best decisions about Missouri.

“They can trot out tired political phrases, they can bring a cavalcade of people who are part of other movements, but they can’t answer how taking $620 million out of our budgets and excluding the direct amendment that would have guaranteed that education be funded, is going to guarantee the schools get the money they need.”

Norquist lately has publically pledged his support for certain Missouri bills, included right-to-work, and was brought in this week to provide a national perspective on tax cutting measures, according to Speaker Jones.

The anti-tax advocate said Monday that about half the states in the nation are now moving to lower taxes, including many working to abolish the state income tax entirely. He says families and industry will stay in the state if they see improvement in the tax code.

“People will decide to invest and expand businesses here because they see the trend,” Norquist said.

But Gov. Nixon says Missouri has the sixth lowest per capita taxes in the nation, according to the Congressional Quarterly’s State Rankings 2013, and that the Show-Me state already has a successful business climate, noting faster job growth locally than 7/8 of neighboring states.

He says that a growing economy, combined with responsible fiscal management, affords the state the opportunity to make smart investments in things like education. And SB 509 would strip critical funding to K-12.

The bill reduces the top personal income tax rate of 6 percent to 5.5 percent by 1/10 of a percent each year beginning in 2017. The reductions, however, are incumbent upon growth in the state's general revenue.

The Springfield Board of Education has adopted a resolution opposing the bill, and urges Missouri legislators not to fight the anticipated veto. The document reads that the Foundation Formula is already underfunded by $600 million, and that passage of SB 509 would cost Springfield Public Schools an estimated $6.5 million per year.

Board President Dr. Denise Fredrick says cuts like these at the state level would likely equal cuts at the local level, possibly of faculty and staff.

“It just starts, I think, a chain reaction. So if reduce teachers, we increase class sizes, there’s more need for behavior interventionists, there’s more need for para professionals in the classroom. Well, that’s adding to the budget, not cutting from,” Fredrick said.

The deadline for Nixon to take action on the bill is Thursday.