Twenty-thousand children with disabilities have become pawns in a fight between the legislature and Governor Nixon. Thousands of low-income Missourians who get tax credits to help pay their rents also are involved.
The First Steps program relies on $20-million in general state tax revenue to attract another $10-million federal dollars to serve those children.
The House and the Senate both approved that funding for the program. But lawmakers in both chamber have been surprised to see the funding stream changed from what they approved. They’ve accused top budget writers from each chamber, Senator Kurt Schaefer and Representative Rick Stream, of hatching a deal behind closed doors changing that system.
The two reportedly want to force the Governor to sign a bill ending tax credits for low income renters. To force the governor to do that, critics say, they have switched First Steps Funding away from general taxes to the money saved by ending those credits.
Senate appropriations committee member Ryan Silvey rebels against using children to force Governor Nixon to do something. Silvey has blocked consideration of the appropriations bill for a couple of hours until the Nixon administration and legisaltors came up with a solution.
In the House, Barnhart Representative Jeff Roorda resents the choice that he thinks Stream and Schaefer cooked up, saying, “I don’t like it when it becomes this prisoner’s dilemma (of) who do we hate more: seniors or kids or seniors or blind people.”
Silvey has been told a way has been found to provide the general tax money for First Steps so the program does not lose the $10-million. Nixon is still threatening to veto the renter’s tax credit bill unless a more comprehensive tax credit reform bill reaches his desk.