Missouri Seniors And Disabled Hit By Latest Legislative Proposals

Services for seniors and people with disabilities would be cut and funding for Missouri’s public colleges and universities would be hit under a state budget plan for next fiscal year unveiled Wednesday.

House and Senate negotiators laid out the plan with only days left before lawmakers’ Friday deadline to pass a budget for the fiscal year beginning in July.

Both House and Senate lawmakers agreed to increase basic aid for public K-12 schools to meet funding goals outlined in state law.

But core funding for public colleges and universities would be cut 6.6 percent. Budget leaders also want to reduce money for in-home and nursing care, which would mean seniors and people with disabilities would need to demonstrate greater need in order to get state help.

“We’ve made some tough choices,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Brown said. “But you play the cards you’re dealt.”

Lawmakers are crafting the state’s roughly $27 billion spending plan amid tight finances. State revenues have grown less than expected this fiscal year — 3.1 percent as of April, while 7 percent growth is needed to fully fund this year’s budget.

Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and his predecessor, Jay Nixon, this fiscal year have made a combined $350 million of spending cuts to offset lagging revenue. Greitens and Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick have also cited growing costs for Medicaid health care as strains.

To address budget holes next fiscal year, Greitens initially proposed cutting in-home and nursing care services. He later backtracked.

The latest version of the budget crafted by lawmakers would also cut those services, though not as much.

Greitens’ original recommendation would have prevented nearly 20,000 people from receiving services. More than 7,900 could lose in-home care under the lawmakers’ proposal, and another 390 would be at risk of losing nursing care.

The change would save roughly $19 million in general revenue by making applicants show a greater level of need to qualify for in-home or nursing home care services.

Fitzpatrick said cuts could be spared if lawmakers end a tax break for low-income senior and disabled renters. A bill to do so is stalled in the Senate.

Kansas City Democrat Sen. Kiki Curls questioned whether the measure will make it to Greitens’ desk. Senate Democrats spoke overnight to delay a vote on it, and Curls criticized it as an “extreme” and unnecessary change.

Other decisions negotiators finalized Wednesday include setting aside $100 million in case of unexpected expenses next fiscal year, blocking federal grant money from being used for drunken driving checkpoints and giving $250,000 for science, technology, engineering and math graduate programs at Harris-Stowe State University.

The decision came after Democrats called for more money for Harris-Stowe and Lincoln University — the state’s two historically black universities. St. Louis Democrat Sen. Jamilah Nasheed described lack of funding for those schools as racist.

The budget plan still needs approval from the House and Senate before lawmakers can send it to Greitens’ desk.

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