Some say the way the House and Senate budget conferees compromised to fund the blind medical subsidy fund won’t pass constitutional muster.
The compromise was to include over $24 million dollars for the fund and to add language to the budget that restricts eligibility for it based on income levels, then provide over $3 million additional dollars through premiums and copays resulting from the eligibility guidelines.
Governor Jay Nixon’s office has released a statement saying adding those restrictions “through the budget process does not change existing law – and is invalid.”
House Minority Floor Leader Mike Talboy (D-Kansas City) agrees. “As early as 2010, and a myriad of cases beforehand, state … language in the budget that attempts to legislate is invalid.”
The ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Sara Lampe (D-Springfield), says Governor Nixon should know what he’s talking about. “The Governor clearly comes out of the Attorney General’s office and he probably knows more about that than I do, but we clearly have to look at that.”
Lampe says if the legislature’s proposal doesn’t stand, she doesn’t know where else the $3 million-plus dollars would come from except education.
House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) says putting directive language in a budget is not a new practice. “The appropriations bills are also laws, and to say that we don’t put direction on how to spend an appropriation in the budget is to have not read the budget. I mean, we do it all over the budget.”
In fact, Silvey says, the language the Committee used is based on that for the State Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP) program, and was found in that section of the budget.
House Democrats say the Republican majority might amend the eligibility language from the blind pension section of the budget to another bill and pass it before the end of the session, on Friday.