- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon freed $143 million of previously frozen education funding Thursday, after lawmakers sustained many of his vetoes of business tax breaks that Nixon had denounced as potential budget-busters.

The demise of the tax-break legislation allowed Nixon to claim at least a partial victory in an annual veto session that nonetheless shattered the Missouri record for the number of veto overrides.

The Republican-led Legislature, often aided by some of Nixon’s fellow Democrats, overrode 47 line-item budget vetoes and 10 other bills during a session that stretched from Wednesday into early Thursday.

The overrides included high-profile measures imposing a 72-hour waiting period for abortions and creating a special training program for teachers to carry guns in classrooms. Earlier this year, lawmakers also overrode Nixon’s veto of a bill cutting the state’s income tax rate for the first time in almost a century.

This year alone, lawmakers overrode nearly twice as many vetoes as had previously been overridden in the past 194 years, dating back to when Missouri was not yet even a state. The previous single-year high of 12 veto overrides occurred in 1833 when only a simple majority - instead of the current two-thirds vote - was required. All of those 1833 vetoes dealt with divorces for couples, something that is no longer a legislative duty.

Nixon did not focus on the historic nature of his veto overrides Thursday. He instead issued a press release touting his “successful effort to defeat a package of special interest tax breaks.”

Although lawmakers overrode two of Nixon tax-related vetoes, they sustained his vetoes of eight other tax measures, including ones that would have created sales tax breaks for electric companies, computer data centers, fitness clubs and restaurants.

Nixon had asserted the measures could have zapped hundreds of millions of dollars of state and local revenues and had cited that in June as one of the reasons he froze $846 million of spending and vetoed an additional $276 million of items from the budget that took effect July 1. An unforeseen decline in state revenues also played a significant role in the cuts.

Nixon had said at the time that he would release some of the money, starting with education funding, if lawmakers sustained his vetoes of the tax-break measures.

He followed through on that Thursday by releasing a $100 million funding increase for K-12 schools and a $43 million increase for public colleges and universities that he had previously frozen.

“I thank members of the General Assembly for taking a closer look at these (tax-break) bills, listening to their constituents and standing with their schools,” Nixon said in a written statement.

State budget director Linda Luebbering said Nixon could decide soon whether to release any of the additional $700 million of spending that he still has on hold. Nixon also could use his budget-balancing powers to freeze the $53 million of line-item vetoes that lawmakers overrode.

During debate, some lawmakers who supported the veto overrides said they expected Nixon to still block the spending.

“The governor’s going to withhold them all,” said Rep. Chris Kelly, a Democrat from Columbia.

Republican legislative leaders said Nixon had made poor decisions in vetoing new funding for such things as child abuse and rape victim services instead of cutting back on bureaucratic things such as his travel costs or advertising expenses by state agencies.

House Majority Leader John Diehl said Nixon should re-evaluate which budget expenditures to block.

“Cut the junkets, spend the money on the kids,” said Diehl, a Republican from suburban St. Louis.

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Follow David A. Lieb at: http://www.twitter.com/DavidALieb

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