Alisa Nelson and Jason Taylor contributed to this story
Missouri Senate Republicans and Democrats are standing united to oppose the House’s position over budgeting in the next fiscal year which starts in July.
To fund state operations, the House would eliminate a tax credit for low-income renters in order to fund in-home and nursing home care for low-income seniors.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Dan Brown says the House’s move is unrealistic. “So the House has refused to take up our position” said Brown. “Instead, they’re gambling on the backs of our senior citizens on a pipe dream.”
The Senate wants to take 35-million dollars in extra money from state accounts to fund such nursing home care. House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick says the Senate’s move is unconstitutional.
Senate Budget Committee Vice Chairman Ryan Silvey disagrees. “As recently as 2013, we directed the state treasurer to deposit into the senior services protection fund $55 million in that year to make sure that these services were funded” said Silvey. “This year we’re only directing $35 million. But it’s been done before. It was implemented. It is constitutional.”
After the Senate refused to embrace the House idea to cut the low income renters tax credit, and offered its proposal to use extra money from state departments, the House countered with a plan to use excess funds from general revenues.
On the floor of the House Thursday evening Fitzpatrick, a Republican, said he had been on the brink of going to a special session over the issue.
Fitzpatrick agrees with Senator Silvey that the 2013 move was constitutional in that it directed tax dollars into the fund that distributes money for the nursing care.
But he says the current Senate plan adds another provision, sweeping money from the Office of Administration, which is unconstitutional. Fitzpatrick contends there’s no required appropriation for such a transfer of funds.
Further, the Administration office is concerned that the plan would go into affect on August 28th, leaving only three days before September 1st to fund the senior nursing program.
The House adopted the plan on a voice vote. Democratic Representatives Michael Butler, Crystal Quade and Peter Meredith expressed skepticism over the plan but agreed to go along with no alternative. Quade said that it’s sad it’s House vs. Senate when it should be about the citizens.
Senate Democrats joined Republicans supporting their chamber’s stance. Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh says their plan is bipartisan and would save thousands of low income seniors from losing vital assistance.
“Why on earth would the House want to throw that solution out the window and gamble our seniors’ safety on a budget trick that may never work?” said Walsh.
The issue remains unresolved. If no agreement is made between the two chambers by 6 p.m. Friday, 8,000 currently covered low-income seniors will be without in-home nursing or nursing home care starting later this year. The legislature’s regular session ends today.