CHICAGO - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said a threat by some legislators to block debt payments for a controversial new stadium in St. Louis would harm the state's prized triple-A credit rating.
"I don't think anyone wants to ultimately risk the bond rating of the state of Missouri," Nixon was quoted as saying in the Sept. 3 St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "You've got to pay your bills."
Nixon also said the project would not require a vote or legislative approval because it would be an economic development. The comments came as the state works to put together a financing package for a $1 billion stadium for the National Football League's St. Louis Rams.
The team has threatened to move to Los Angeles, and supporters, including the city, county and state, want to build a new stadium to entice the team to stay. Nixon has appointed a task force that has devised a plan to use $66 million in borrowing supported by the city through a local sports authority and $135 million of borrowing through the sports authority supported by the state.
The remainder of the $1 billion package relies on $250 million from the team, $200 million from an NFL loan, $187 million in tax credits, and $160 million in seat licensing sales.
Nixon's comments Thursday were his strongest defense yet for the stadium, according to the Post-Dispatch.
The NFL still needs to agree to keep the Rams in St. Louis and to contribute to the proposed stadium.
"If we don't do this, there is no other project that's going to knock out 50 dilapidated buildings and build a world-class facility [on the riverfront]," Nixon told the Post-Dispatch. "There's nothing else in the queue."
The governor said because the stadium would be structured as an economic development project, it does not need voter or legislative approval to move forward.
The question has been the focus of a court dispute. A circuit court in early August ruled that St. Louis is free to spend tax money on the new stadium, tossing out a 2002 city ordinance that required a public vote on the use of tax dollars for a professional sports stadium. A group of lawmakers in May filed a complaint saying it's illegal to tap public funds without state or voter approval.