JEFFERSON CITY – After meeting privately as a caucus, House Republicans said Monday that a veto override appears likely for a high-profile gun bill but the odds remain uncertain for an income tax cut that was spiked by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
There's a good chance that the Republican-led Legislature will override several of Nixon's 29 vetoes, said House Speaker Tim Jones. But even after a lengthy closed-door discussion about the income tax cut, Jones acknowledged that several Republicans still have reservations about it.
Legislators are to convene Sept. 11 to consider veto overrides.
To obtain the two-thirds majority needed for an override, all 109 House Republicans must vote for a bill or else they must pick up support from some Democrats. Senate Republicans can afford to lose the support of one of their own and still have enough votes for an override.
Several House Democrats already have said they would vote with Republicans to override Nixon's veto of a bill that attempts to nullify certain federal gun-control laws in Missouri and allows state misdemeanor charges to be filed against federal agents who attempt to enforce those laws. Aside from a lone Republican who voted against the bill originally, no one else came out in opposition to the gun bill during the GOP caucus meetings last Friday and Saturday in St. Louis.
"It looks like we're going to have an override" on the gun legislation, said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Doug Funderburk, R-St. Peters.
Jones said there "was absolutely no objection expressed to bringing that (gun) bill up or voting on it." He said the majority of the Republicans also want a vote to be taken on the income tax cut but it's not certain whether that would succeed.
"There are two to four votes in play, depending on the day and depending on how much pressure and stress an individual caucus member is receiving from folks who are doing the governor's bidding," Jones, R-Eureka, said Monday. "Honestly, this may be a game time decision on Sept. 11."
That legislation would gradually reduce the state's individual and corporate income tax rates, so long as state revenues continue to rise by at least $100 million annually. It also would enact a new tax deduction for business income reported on individual tax returns. Other provisions would trigger an additional reduction in the state's income tax rates if Congress were to pass a measure making it easier for states to collect taxes on online sales.
Nixon has been holding press conferences around the state warning that the tax cuts could zap hundreds of millions of dollars from the state budget, potentially leading to funding cuts for education, mental health care and other state services. He also has highlighted an apparent error in the bill that would impose a state sales tax on prescription drugs.
Meanwhile, retired investment firm executive Rex Sinquefield has poured about $2.4 million into an advertising campaign coordinated with business groups who want lawmakers to override the veto.
Rep. T.J. Berry, R-Kearney, who sponsored the tax cut bill, said the prospects of a veto override improved after the Republican caucus discussed it at length. Though he did not identify them, he said two lawmakers who previously expressed reservations said they would support the override if it turns out they are the deciding votes.
"I came away heartened," Berry said.
But Rep. Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City, said he still plans to vote against the veto override because of concerns about how it could affect public school funding and seniors who are dependent on medicines.
"I represent the people who elected me and sent me here, and I'm just standing up on their behalf," Phillips said. "It's not that I'm interested in taking on my own party. I'm not. I don't do that very often. But I will if I have to."
Rep. Nate Walker, R-Kirksville, said Monday that he still leans toward opposing the veto override. Walker said he suggested during the caucus that lawmakers could pass a fresh bill next year that fixes some of the concerns about this year's version.
But "I don't know if anybody changed their mind after the caucus," he said.