State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, chair of the Missouri General Assembly’s Black Caucus, is threatening to block Senate action on several of Gov. Jay Nixon’s key appointments because of the governor’s action to delay state tax breaks for several low-income housing projects.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, joined Nasheed and several St. Louis officials at a news conference Monday to attack the governor’s participation in a deal to defuse Republican filibuster threats during the recent special legislative session in which tax breaks were approved for Boeing Co.
Kinder said that the deal was “a ruse’’ and unnecessarily linked the new tax breaks for Boeing to the existing state tax credits to encourage development of new housing for the poor, disabled and elderly.
Kinder, a Republican, sits on the Missouri Housing Development Commission, which approves the credits for low-income housing. The lieutenant governor says he cast the only dissenting vote earlier this month when the governor’s chief of staff, John Watson, showed up at the Dec. 6 meeting and asked commissioners to delay action for several months on several dozen projects. About a quarter of the planned projects are in the St. Louis area.
Kinder recalled that Watson told the panel that the delay was needed to appease several Republican senators who have long criticized the tax credit programs.
Nixon’s apparent aim was to prevent a filibuster during the special session by those same Republicans in the Senate. A filibuster could have killed the tax-credit measure to encourage Boeing to move some or all of its production of the new 777x commercial airliners to St. Louis.
No filibuster took place, the Boeing tax breaks were approved, and Missouri appears to be in the running still for the Boeing project. Several states are vying for the Boeing project, which could bring in thousands of jobs.
Kinder, who presides over the Senate, said he disagreed with some Republican senators when it comes to the benefits of state tax credits, which he believes encourage development and create jobs.
But that debate aside, the lieutenant governor said he agrees with Nasheed and others that it was unfair and unnecessary to link the Boeing project to low-income housing, since the two tax breaks had nothing to do with each other. The Boeing tax-credit package did not involve curbing other state tax credits.
Longstanding debate over state tax credits
Kinder said legislators have battled for years over the state’s tax credit programs, particularly the two largest, for low-income housing and historic buildings. The two programs now have a combined cap of $275 million a year in tax credits; Nixon and some Republican lawmakers want much lower caps, while others so far have been successful in preserving the current levels of funding.
Kinder and Nasheed said that tax-credit debate shouldn’t have been used as a deal-maker during the special session.
“We shouldn’t be having this conversation,’’ Nasheed said. “The governor made a misstep.”
Interjected Kinder: “He did that while representing to Sen. Nasheed and other senators that there was no deal.”
Nasheed said that the governor has offered to meet with the Black Caucus on Jan. 8 to discuss the dispute, in the wake of an angry letter that the caucus sent to him earlier this month.
Nasheed observed that Nixon has never met with the Black Caucus since he took office five years ago.
“We determined a great part of his margin of victory,’’ Nasheed said, referring to African-American legislators and the black voters they represent.
Unless the dispute is resolved, “we’re going to have a long session on tax credits,’’ Nasheed said.
Nasheed said she will engage in “any and everything, by any means necessary," to protect the state’s tax credits for low-income housing and historic buildings.
Nasheed noted that she also sits on the Senate panel that handles Nixon appointments. The Senate must approve those appointees within the 30 days of the new session, or the appointments are dead. The new slate of appointees includes several new heads of state departments.
For now, the governor has no comment about the dispute with the Black Caucus or Nasheed's threat, his spokesman said.
The governor had one defender at Monday's news conference at a Salvation Army residential center for veterans, which was built with the aid of state low-income tax credits.
St. Louis Alderwoman Marlene Davis, D-19th Ward, represents the area where the news conference was held. She showed up to say that she objected to airing such a dispute with the governor in public. She contended that Nixon had been merely trying to get the Boeing package approved quickly, and that his proposed delay in the low-income housing tax breaks would do no harm.
"I'm tired of this, what I saw today,'' Davis said angrily. Nasheed replied that she was making no apologies.