Gov. Jay Nixon today visited Missouri's Fulton State Hospital to tour the facility and discuss the impact of House Bill 253, a costly tax package he vetoed last month. Despite broad bipartisan agreement on the need to improve the facilities at Fulton State Hospital, which opened in 1851, House Bill 253 would make such investments impossible, Gov. Nixon said. With a price tag of more than $800 million annually, House Bill 253 would permanently undermine the state's ability to support vital public services, including education and mental health.
"As I said last January, we have a responsibility to these patients and their caregivers to provide the best possible environment: one that is safe, secure and conducive to healing," Gov. Nixon said. "That is why legislators on both sides of the aisle agree that building a new Fulton State Hospital is a necessary and long-overdue investment. Unfortunately, investments like those needed here at Fulton State Hospital will simply not be possible if House Bill 253 becomes law and punches an $800 million hole in our state budget each and every year."
In his 2013 State of the State Address, Gov. Nixon recommended issuing targeted bonds that would include funding to build a new Fulton State Hospital. Findings published last week by the three leading independent credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's, show the potential for serious risks to Missouri's fiscal health and the state's long-standing AAA credit rating if the Governor's veto is overridden and House Bill 253 becomes law. A downgrade to the state's credit rating would make the bond issue needed to build a new Fulton State Hospital drastically more expensive.
"We believe that recent legislation, known as House Bill 253, could potentially have a significantly negative impact on the state's finances under certain circumstances," Standard & Poor's wrote in its July 24 report. "We believe that if the Missouri legislature overrides the governor's veto and enacts the legislation, and the federal government passes the Marketplace Fairness Act, it has the potential to result in a significant financial impact to the state, despite requirements for the maintenance of a balanced budget."
In its July 18, 2013 report, Fitch Ratings specifically noted that House Bill 253 would be taken into account in evaluating Missouri's credit rating if the Governor's veto was overridden. Moody's acknowledged the Governor's action in restricting $400 million to ensure a balanced budget in the event that House Bill 253 became law.
"I am calling on members of the General Assembly to stop this unaffordable and ill-conceived tax experiment from becoming law," Gov. Nixon said. "We can maintain fiscal discipline and hold the line on taxes, while meeting our moral responsibility to these patients and their caregivers here at Fulton. But only if my veto of House Bill 253 is sustained."