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Public Statements

House Bill 253: Costs Too Much, Helps Too Little

Op-Ed

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By Governor Jay Nixon

For more than two decades in public service, I have worked with Missourians from all across our state - business and labor, rural and urban, Republicans and Democrats - to grow our economy, create jobs and make Missouri a state where everyone has a fair shot at a good life and where our kids can grow up to achieve their dreams.

Along the way, we've cut taxes, made record investments in our schools, and stepped up to help our neighbors when disasters struck.

Public service has always been a place where we have come together to get things done for the people we serve.

However, House Bill 253 is a risky experiment that threatens to knock Missouri off our proven, fiscally responsible course and set our economy back for years to come. That's why I vetoed this flawed bill, and why bipartisan support for sustaining my veto is growing among legislators.

HB 253 doesn't address some great need, like when Republicans and Democrats came together in a special session to pass the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act, which saved our auto industry.

It wasn't the result of a grassroots effort to protect the vulnerable, like the landmark autism legislation of 2010 that is helping thousands of children.

It wasn't an example of folks rolling up their sleeves to help their neighbors, like when we came together to rebuild Joplin in 2011.

The truth is the main constituency for House Bill 253 is one wealthy individual and a few special interests.

That's why 110 school boards across the state have opposed HB 253. They join local chambers of commerce, educators, children's advocates, and city councils, who all understand that this legislation does not help businesses and offers even less to working families.

During the last few months, one thing has become clear: Those still supporting HB 253 aren't really sure of its effects.

They pointed to Kansas as their model. But when Kansas embarked on its risky tax scheme, it became one of the only states in 2013 that had to cut funding for education, and raise taxes by $777 million. Even that wasn't enough to keep their bond rating from being downgraded.

HB 253 supporters then touted Texas. But Texas has higher property and sales taxes than Missouri. In fact, Missouri's corporate tax climate is ranked eighth lowest in the nation, while Texas ranks 38th. Texas schools perform far behind ours, and the state's services - or lack thereof - for their most vulnerable citizens are inadequate.

Supporters of HB 253 claim that it is historic legislation.

On that, we agree.

HB 253, and its unaffordable costs, would set Missouri back for generations to come.

Here's what we do know about HB 253:

First, it raises taxes by eliminating the sales tax exemption on prescription drugs and college textbooks. This means Missouri families would see a tax increase of more than $200 million each year.

Second, it costs too much. With a price tag of at least $800 million, it would hit our schools especially hard. The cuts to public school budgets would be the equivalent of eliminating between 5,400 and 9,400 teachers across the state.

Third, HB 253 would damage the state's fiscal foundation. Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's have warned of the serious risks to Missouri's fiscal health and the state's AAA credit rating if HB 253 becomes law. A downgrade to the state's credit rating would increase the interest paid on state and local bonds.

Fourth, it would devastate our mental health system. HB 253 would cut crucial services like those for children with autism and people with developmental disabilities. To cover the high costs of HB 253, Missouri would have to close five state-operated developmental disability habilitation centers in Marshall, Higginsville, Sikeston, Poplar Bluff, and St. Charles.

All of this for what?

So lawyers and lobbyists can get a tax break they don't need?

HB 253 won't help working families. It won't help Missouri's students. It won't help businesses create jobs. It won't move Missouri forward.

HB 253 costs too much, helps too little, and would do permanent damage to this state we love.

It's time legislators abandon this bill and get back to what Missourians expect of them: working together, guided by the values we share, to chart a course toward a brighter, more prosperous future.


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