The state House’s budget committee leaders both say they will fight the paying of debt on a new St. Louis NFL stadium if voters or the legislature don’t approve it.
House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Flanigan (R-Carthage) said in a letter to Governor Jay Nixon (D) that he opposes using state tax credits and direct appropriations for debt service on a new stadium before the current stadium debt is paid off. He wrote he will not let an appropriation for debt service on a new stadium clear the House unless that debt is approved by Missouri voters or the legislature.
Nixon believes he can extend the bonds for the current stadium to finance a new roughly $1-billion dollar stadium, and without the approval of voters or the General Assembly.
Flanigan and others Missourinet spoke to believe that for him, the Budget Committee chairman, to oppose paying debt on those bonds could mean more to potential bond issuers or buyers, than for some other lawmakers to oppose it.
“My name is on the bill, and we’re the ones who are responsible for making sure the appropriations bills get passed in the House, so from that standpoint yes, I think we add a little bit more weight,” Flanigan told Missourinet.
Flanigan is expected to chair the budget committee through the 2016 session. His likely successor and the Budget Committee’s current co-chairman, Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob), sent a letter of his own urging Nixon, “reconsider your plans.” He added, “This letter will be distributed publicly to warn all potential bond purchasers to take note of my concerns and my intended course of action should you move forward.”
Fitzpatrick wrote that if the governor proceeds with bond issuance without the General Assembly’s or voters’ approval, it would be the governor’s fault if Missouri’s credit rating would be affected.
The leader of the House Democrats, Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis), criticized Flanigan and Fitzpatrick for their positions after both signed off on the current year’s budget after language was removed that would ban the use of state money to pay off bonds on a new stadium.
“Instead of sending out letters after the fact criticizing a proposal they voted to support during the legislative session, I encourage my colleagues to work together to ensure St. Louis remains an NFL city,” wrote Hummel.
Fitzpatrick said the language in question was opposed by then House Speaker John Diehl, Junior, who resigned at the end of the session. He also believes the language in that budget bill means the appropriation it approves could only go to the debt on the current stadium.
“As far as where people were then and where they are now,” Fitzpatrick told Missourinet, “I can tell you that the idea, the proposal that the governor’s put out, is something that I have not been in favor of the entire time.”
Flanigan wrote, and reiterated to Missourinet, that he does not oppose a new stadium in the St. Louis region.