JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — Legislation passed in the closing hours of Missouri's annual session Friday could patch a hole in the state budget for early childhood programs and some health care initiatives.
Legislators gave final approval to two measures, each of which would order the transfer $55 million of general revenues into a newly created "Missouri Senior Services Protection Fund" to be used for four programs in budgetary peril.
The move was necessary because the 2014 budget lawmakers passed last week called for the programs to be funded by savings from the repeal of a tax break for low-income seniors and disabled residents who live in rental housing. But Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill that would have repealed that tax break and placed the savings in the "Missouri Senior Services Protection Fund."
Nixon said he vetoed the measure because the tax credit repeal for seniors and disabled residents was not part of a broader overhaul of the state's numerous tax credit programs.
The veto also meant the loss of a total of $55 million for the First Steps program for young children with developmental disabilities, other early childhood special education initiatives, a health care program for the blind and medical clinics that treat low-income patients.
Missouri senators attached a new funding source for the programs to two separate bills in an attempt to ensure that at least one measure would be signed into law by Nixon. The House gave final approval Friday to both of those bills.
"This fixes a conundrum we ran into in our budget," said Rep. Jeanne Kirkton, of Webster Groves, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
The budget patch was first passed in the House on Friday as part of a bill dealing with the powers of the state auditor's office. That measure also was amended to require details about gubernatorial budget cuts and local bond issuances to be posted on a state website that tracks state expenditures.
A short while later, the House gave final approval to a second bill containing the budget patch. That bill also includes a provision extending the expiration date of the Ticket to Work program, which provides Medicaid coverage to more than 1,300 disabled workers who otherwise would earn too much to qualify for government-funded health care. Another section of the bill would allow the creation of a legislative committee to study potential changes to the Medicaid system before the 2014 session.
Under both bills, the budget patch would take effect immediately upon the governor's signature, which would put the provisions in place for the July 1 start of the new budget.
Budget patch is in HB116 and HB986.