A tax increase that won’t be felt and increased efficiency could save the state as much as $54 million, at least that’s what the legislature hopes.

The bill, HCS SCS SBs 842, 799 & 809, is part of the package of legislation next year’s state budget relies upon to achieve targeted savings of as much as $112 million. There are about a dozen bills that would affect next year’s budget that have yet to pass with slightly more than a week to go in the legislative session. This is one of the largest of the bills. It has passed the House and returns to the Senate.

Rep. Chris Kelly, a Democrat from Columbia, urges colleagues to approve an amendment sponsored by Rep. David Sater (R-Cassville) that seeks to accurately assess the need for in-home provider services.

“Both for the fact that the gentleman’s amendment saves the state $30 million and none of us want to see another $30 million come out of the budget and from the compassionate point of view,” Kelly tells colleagues during floor debate. “This may be single most important bill or amendment we have seen this year.”

The amendment calls for the state to contract with a third party to assess the need for in-home services and how many hours might be needed. Lawmakers believe a lot of money is being wasted at present. Supporters say that it not only will save the state tens of millions of dollars, but will allow the state to spread in-home services to more people.

Few legislators talk much about another provision; a tax increase on managed care providers. That portion of the bill would remove an exemption from the two percent insurance premium tax now enjoyed by Medicaid managed care providers. It is expected to reap up to $24 million. It’s not much of a tax increase. The managed care providers will receive more than the two percent in federal reimbursements.

Kelly says the $54 million is a good start, but he sees a lack of urgency to pass the rest of the legislation next year’s budget was built upon.

“I think the lack of urgency is with the leadership,” Kelly says, “both executive and the legislative.”

Is he concerned?

“I don’t see enough urgency,” Kelly says.

What needs to happen, we ask.

“Sit down and hammer this stuff out,” Kelly replies, “Say, ‘Listen, we can do this or we can do half of this, we can’t do this at all.’ ‘Well, can you do this?’ You know, those kinds of conversations are necessary and they’re not happening.”

About a week is left for it to happen.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:20 MP3]