JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — The Missouri House and Senate gaveled into veto session Wednesday, Sept. 14 to begin debate on how to respond to Gov. Mike Parson's vetoes of a one-time stimulus measure, which included direct payments and an agriculture tax incentive package.
The last time lawmakers met under the dome, members in both parties voted overwhelmingly to give most taxpayers $500 dollars back in the form of a tax rebate. Most married couples would get $1,000. But Parson vetoed that plan in favor of tax cuts critics say would pale in comparison to the larger one-time stimulus payments.
"It’s our job to pass a bill for all Missourians," House Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher (R-St. Louis) said. "We passed a bill the governor chose to veto."
Parson's rationale for scuttling the one-time relief payments included claims the program wasn't properly funded. However, last month, Parson celebrated a $5 billion budget surplus.
"The money is there," State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge (D-St. Louis) said. "We have more money in the state coffers than we've ever had, especially with all the ARPA funds that have come through."
Aldridge sits on the House Budget Committee and had advocated for $1,000 direct payments instead of the pared-down $500 plan that was ultimately approved. He criticized Parson's plan to deny people that lump sum in exchange for tax cuts that would pay out significantly smaller amounts over a long period of time.
"I think Republicans really just don't care about poor people, like they say," Aldridge said. "The reality is the $500 check isn't just going to affect people in my district. We are talking about people in these rural areas, too, that are struggling to get by."
State Rep. Ron Hicks (R-Defiance) disagreed with Parson's veto.
"I think the people of Missouri would rather have their money upfront," he said.
Some Democrats are holding out hope they can organize a push to override Parson's veto.
"Missourians need relief and we're not doing that," State Rep. LaKeySha Bosley (D-St. Louis City) said. "We're constantly fighting. There's no such thing as giving up when we're in this body and in this chamber. We're gonna keep fighting, we're gonna keep negotiating. We're gonna keep trying to find a way to make this work for all Missourians."
Hicks doubted whether the Republican caucus could muster the votes to override Parson before the midterm election in November.
"I don't think we're gonna mess with things right now," he said.
“We recognize deeply that this is the taxpayers’ money. We’re looking at many facets of things we could explore,” Plocher said. “We don’t know exactly how that’s going to look.”
Plocher, who's preparing to take over the speaker's gavel in January, suggested he's leaning toward negotiating with Parson's office and Republicans in the Senate.
"Just because we pass it with a veto-proof majority doesn't mean we have the votes the very next day for an override," he said. "I don't think my job is to steamroll the governor. My job is to affect what's best for Missourians and respect what the governor's trying to do, too."