[Education and Welfare] FW: Post-Dispatch on Senate hearing
chris at moblind.org
Thu Apr 5 09:36:35 CDT 2012
On balance, this is a negative article. I'm sorry to see it end with Silvey's
remarks that can separate us from people with other disabilities.
On Wed, 4 Apr
2012, Denny Huff wrote:
> Missouri Senate committee begins budget talks
> JEFFERSON CITY . The Senate Appropriations Committee has kicked off
> discussions on a spending plan for the coming year.
> Starting shortly after 8:30 a.m. today, the committee has not yet reached
> the most contentious piece of next year's budget - a House proposal to cut
> funding for a health care program for the blind.
> But Senate Appropriations Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, hinted multiple
> times that the blind aid would be restored in this first round of budget
> proposals coming from the Senate.
> During a discussion on the education budget and the need to review some
> expenses, another member of the committee insinuated that cuts elsewhere
> would be preferable to cuts for the blind.
> "Who says we're cutting health care for the blind?" Schaefer said.
> The committee has taken a break for morning action on the floor.
> During the mark-up hearing, senators indicated the chamber could further
> alter a proposal that would give raises to state employees. State employees
> have not received raises in nearly four years, and Missouri ranks near the
> bottom in state worker pay.
> Gov. Jay Nixon recommended 2 percent raises for all employees starting next
> The House changed that to 2 percent raises for employees who make less than
> $70,000 beginning at the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.
> The new proposal in the Senate would give 2 percent raises to employees who
> make less than $45,000 a year starting July 1.
> A final plan will be hashed out in budget negotiations between the Senate
> and House later this session.
> "We will deliver a balanced budget - I can guarantee that right now,"
> Schaefer said.
> Lawmakers are looking for ways to trim spending because revenues have not
> yet bounced back from the recession. Nixon, a Democrat, and Republican
> legislators say they oppose increasing taxes to cover the gaps.
> The House's spending plan would take $28 million from a health care program
> that serves about 2,800 blind people who do not qualify for Medicaid and put
> that money toward higher education. As a substitute, the House budget
> proposal creates a smaller transitional health care program.
> Nixon's budget recommendation included a $5 million increase for K-12 but a
> nearly $60 million cut to higher education.
> The Senate committee this morning indicated that it agrees with House
> recommendations to restore money that has been cut from higher education and
> increase funding for the elementary and secondary education foundation
> formula by $5 million plus $1.
> A second committee room was opened for the overflow of people who wanted to
> listen to the Senate committee's budget discussions. Several advocates for
> the blind are at the Capitol today. The Missouri Council of the Blind has
> secured more than 1,000 signatures from people who oppose any cuts to the
> health care program.
> The current blind health care program is available to people who earn more
> than $9,495 a year, which is the state Medicaid cap. Recipients cannot have
> more than $20,000 in assets (excluding the homes they live in), and they
> cannot have sighted spouses who work.
> When the budget came to a vote on the House floor last month, several
> lawmakers described the cut to the blind aid as an "emotional" decision. It
> ultimately passed in a 90-61 vote, and no one offered an amendment to fully
> restore the funding.
> Those who favor the cut have noted that there are no programs to provide
> similar coverage beyond Medicaid for people with any other disability other
> than blindness.
> "You've got one particular program that treats one disability so different
> than everybody else," said House Budget Committee Chair Ryan Silvey,
> R-Kansas City, during the floor debate on the proposal.
> If the program is eliminated, "you would simply be treated like any other
> disability," he said.
> Read more:
Christopher Gray, Executive Director
Missouri Council of the Blind
St. Louis, MO 63109
Phone: (314) 832-7172
Toll-free: (800) 342-5632
Fax: (314) 832-7796
More information about the EW