- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 14, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri’s House speaker is seeking signatures for a letter to Gov. Jay Nixon that slams a plan to use state money for a new St. Louis football stadium without lawmaker or voter approval.

A letter from Republican Speaker Todd Richardson obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press says some lawmakers want the Rams to stay in St. Louis. But the letter criticized the governor’s efforts to do so, saying public debate on the issue is needed.

Nixon appointed a task force to develop a counterproposal to efforts by owner Stan Kroenke to move the team to the Los Angeles area. That’s stirred controversy among some lawmakers who want a say in the matter.

“We will oppose any proposal that undermines the authority of the Missouri General Assembly and the will of the people,” Richardson’s letter reads. “We will not stand idly by as the people of this state are committed to millions of dollars in debt without proper legislative approval or a public vote.”

Richardson sent the letter - addressed to Nixon, a Democrat, and the leaders of a stadium task force - in an email to GOP colleagues. He asked them to look it over and respond if they were willing to add their signature.

Richardson didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment. A Nixon spokesman said he hasn’t seen the letter and declined to comment.

Early estimates put the cost of the proposed stadium around $1 billion, including about $88 million in tax credits and $152 million in bonds.

Lack of support from lawmakers, who are responsible for approving how state money is spent, could cast doubts on the project’s finances.

Richardson is the latest of several lawmakers who have spoken against using taxpayer money for a new stadium without buy-in from voters or legislators.

“There is zero chance that the General Assembly will appropriate the funds for a new stadium,” said Republican Rep. Jay Barnes, who filed a lawsuit on behalf of six lawmakers who want to block Nixon and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority from taking steps to finance a new stadium.

But Senate Minority Leader Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, raised questions about what it would mean for lawmakers to refuse to make payments on bonding for a stadium.

“If they’re only going to fund the debt that they feel is appropriate in their mind, are we going to have this conversation about every debt issue that we put out?” Keaveny said Tuesday.

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