JEFFERSON CITY – The stakes just got a little higher in the fight over Missouri income tax cuts.
The leader of a conservative group said Friday that it may recruit primary challengers to run against any Republican lawmaker who votes "no" on an attempt to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of an income tax cut. That political warning came the same day a St. Louis radio station said it stopped running an ad in which Texas Gov. Rick Perry cites the veto as a reason for Missouri businesses to consider relocating to Texas.
As lawmakers prepare to convene Sept. 11 to consider veto overrides, the political battle has intensified. The Republican-led Legislature needs a two-thirds majority in each chamber – meaning it must hold all of its members together in the House or else pick up support from some Democrats.
A few Republicans already have said they are likely to vote "no." If they do, they could be campaigning for re-election in 2014 without the backing of some groups that typically provide money and grass-roots support to GOP candidates.
"If a person who says they are a conservative doesn't. vote for this override, they are not going to get our support next year – that's for certain – and it is very likely we will be looking for somebody to run against them," said Bev Randles, chairwoman of the Missouri Club for Growth, a political action committee.
It's one of several entities that have been running ads encouraging lawmakers to override the veto.
Club for Growth received $750,000 last month from retired investment firm executive Rex Sinquefield, who supports the tax cut. All told, Sinquefield has given nearly $2.4 million to groups supporting the tax cut, some of which has gone to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
State chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan, who hosted a Jefferson City news conference with Randles, said the tax cut vote would receive a top priority in the chamber's upcoming ratings of legislators. But Mehan stopped short of saying the business group would campaign against those who vote "no."
The legislation in question would gradually cut Missouri's corporate income tax rate nearly in half and lower the top tax rate for individuals from 6 percent to 5.5 percent over the next decade, so long as state revenues continue to rise by at least $100 million annually. It also would phase in a 50 percent tax deduction for business income reported on individual tax returns.
Nixon has warned the tax cuts could cost Missouri hundreds of millions of dollars, leading to less funding for education and other services. He has raised concerns about a provision that would trigger even deeper income tax cuts if Congress passes a measure making it easier for states to tax online retail sales. Nixon also has highlighted an apparent drafting error that imposes a state sales tax on prescription drugs.
Perry has said Missouri lawmakers should override the veto. He plans to speak next week at a pair of St. Louis events hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, the Club for Growth and other tax cut proponents.
TexasOne, a public-private marketing partnership, is spending about $206,000 on TV and radio ads in Missouri promoting Texas in advance of Perry's visit. In the radio ad, Perry describes Nixon's veto as unfortunate and encourages businesses and families to consider moving to Texas.
"Vetoing a tax cut is the same thing as raising your taxes," Perry says. "But there is a state where businesses flourish and jobs are created – Texas. "
St. Louis radio station KTRS said Friday that it had stopped running the ad.
"When the order was placed, KTRS was under the assumption these commercials were going to promote tourism to Texas," KTRS General Manager Mark Dorsey said in a written statement. "Once we, the Management of KTRS realized these commercials were instead focused on stealing locally owned companies away from St Louis, we suspended airing these commercials immediately."