Few hit so far by cuts to aid for Missouri seniors, disabled
By SUMMER BALLENTINE
Oct. 20, 2017
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Few people have lost in-home and nursing care despite recent funding cuts, but Republican lawmakers on Friday said they're still trying to come up with a funding solution to prevent further reductions to services.
Data from the Department of Health and Senior Services show only 35 people were dropped out of close to 60,000 receiving services at the end of September, although it hasn't been long since Republican Gov. Eric Greitens in June vetoed a bill that would have prevented cuts.
The budget, as passed by lawmakers in May, cut in-home and nursing home services for about 8,300 seniors and people with disabilities. Greitens decried another bill passed by lawmakers to sweep $35.4 million from various dedicated funds in order to maintain the current level of personal care services was a "last-minute budget gimmick."
"Right now, we're less than four months into the fiscal year, but at some point the budget axe will fall and it will be vulnerable Missourians who are hurt the most," Senate Democratic Leader Gina Walsh said in a Friday statement. "Let's be clear - the only person who can stop the governor's cuts is the governor himself."
Greitens' spokesman Parker Briden didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
Republican legislative leaders on Friday said lawmakers still are working to prevent more people from losing services, although it's unclear when the Legislature will address the issue.
Republican Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said in a statement that they've given Greitens "a workable solution that is fiscally responsible and maintains services for about 8,000 disabled seniors and veterans." Richard said they're waiting on Greitens to call lawmakers into a special session.
House Speaker Todd Richardson said although few people have been affected so far, there's still a need to address funding issues "either in a special session or early next session."
Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick said possible fixes include limiting a tax break for low-income seniors and disabled renters, which likely will face pushback from Democrats. Other ideas include reducing the tax credit, enacting income limits for eligibility and changing the age at which people can become eligible for the tax break, although Fitzpatrick stressed that House leaders are flexible in making a deal on the tax break as long as it brings in about $35 million in savings — the amount needed to maintain services for the elderly and disabled.
Fitzpatrick said it will be tough to get enough support from lawmakers for the Legislature to call itself back in, and Greitens might be reluctant to call a special session if a bill doesn't have a good chance at passing.