Republican Governor Eric Greitens has vetoed a bill that would help fund in-home and nursing home care for about 8,000 elderly and disabled Missourians. The Missouri Legislature passed the bill during the final minutes of this year’s regular session. Greitens calls the legislature’s decision a budget gimmick and says moving $34 million from various state funds to pay for the care is “a fake fix to a real problem.”
During the final day of the session, state Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, was filled with outrage as lawmakers discussed the possibility of voting down the bill. Speaker Pro-Tem Elijah Haahr, who was presiding over the House, had to use the gavel to try and stop her shouting. Lavender tells Missourinet that she disagrees with Greitens’ statements.
“A lot of the criticism is this is a one-time fix. Yeah, that’s right. I’ll take a one-time fix over not funding these people for a year. If nothing else, it extends it for a year what we can do for them. It’s not a gimmick,” says Lavender. “It’s not like we’re robbing from Peter to pay Paul. We are truly going into Paul’s piggy banks. This is $3.6 billion sitting in funds that we’re not using.”
According to Lavender, Missouri has 469 different state funds that contain $3.6 billion in unspent revenue. She says some of their balances have as much as $85 million in reserve. The $34 million cost to fund such services is less than 1% of the excess money.
Lavender says Greitens’ decision will cost the state more money by forcing vulnerable Missourians to use emergency rooms for the care they are no longer getting and will end up in nursing homes sooner than they would have if community-based services continued.
Greitens says the bill moves state funding in a way that would jeopardize programs for child abuse and neglect prevention, workers compensation and emergency responder training. Lavender says the legislature would not do that.
“There would certainly be funds that we would not want to take money from,” says Lavender. “We would not take money from the fund for education or for transportation. The child fund would be a fund that we would not want to take money from because there are good purposes for that.”
For the first time in a decade, the formula used to fund Missouri’s K-12 public schools is fully funded. The state legislature passed and Greitens signed a budget that includes increasing school funding by more than $133 million.