Governor Blunt has vetoed the major economic development bill approved during the legislative session.
Blunt calls HB 327 a large and excessive bill, but says it was quite difficult to decide to veto it. The bill contained a high priority of the governor’s, an enhancement of the Quality Jobs program which has been the state’s most popular economic development tool. It provides tax breaks to companies that agree to bring jobs to the state that pay above-average wages and provide health care benefits. The program has reached its cap and the Blunt Administration wanted that cap raised.
The legislation also had other provisions attractive to the Blunt Administration. The governor says he favors the Enhanced Enterprise Zones and the New Market Tax Credit provisions.
Blunt says the bill, though, got bogged down with a laundry list of projects that increased its cost by $200 million in excess of the Quality Jobs reauthorization. The Administration also says there were unknown expenses hidden in the bill. Blunt says that while he really wanted the Quality Jobs expansion, he couldn’t agree to a bill that wasn’t in the best interest of the average Missouri taxpayer.
Blunt had several objections to HB 327 . Blunt says the bill would have allowed tax breaks to go to businesses that pay employees less than the average county wage and don’t offer health care coverage to employees. It also provided incentives to pet economic development projects Blunt didn’t favor.
The bill was a product of a clash between the House and Senate. Leadership in the two chambers differed greatly on what should go into the bill. The main sponsor, Rep. Ron Richard (R-Joplin), grew upset when negotiations with the Senate stalled. He refused to return to the negotiation table and then led the House to approve the bill as it came out of the Senate, even though he and other leaders agreed that it was a bloated bill. Business leaders at the Capitol speculated that Blunt would have to sign the legislation to get the enhancement to the Quality Jobs program. When told of that during a telephone interview, Blunt stated, "I don’t have to sign anything."