JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Missouri lawmakers began a special session Wednesday to create a new prescription drug benefit for lower-income senior citizens.

Gov. Bob Holden has endorsed a proposed prescription program based on the recommendations of a task force he appointed. Democratic and Republican lawmakers also have introduced bills based on the plan.

The U.S. Congress has not added a prescription drug benefit to the Medicare program for the elderly and Missouri lawmakers deadlocked earlier this year on a prescription drug plan.

Missouri is one of at least 30 states that already have adopted some type of pharmaceutical assistance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most use state funds to subsidize a portion of the prescription costs, but Missouri is the only state that currently uses an end-of-year tax credit to subsidize seniors' drug costs.

The tax credit was projected to cost $20 million annually when passed three years ago. But it has ballooned to an $85 million program offering tax credits to nearly 500,000 Missourians.

The new proposal would repeal the tax credit and create a new benefit intended for seniors with high medicine bills, low incomes and no insurance.

After eligible seniors pay an enrollment fee and meet a deductible, the state would pick up 60 percent of each senior's cost, up to $5,000 annually.