A bill eliminating a tax credit for senior citizens caused the Missouri Senate to grind to a halt Wednesday morning, stalling a key piece of legislation that the state’s $27 billion budget is built on.
The proposal would repeal a property tax credit for low-income seniors who rent their homes.
The Missouri House voted to eliminate the tax credit to free up more than $50 million. That money was shifted in the budget to forestall Gov. Eric Greitens’ plan to end in-home care and nursing home services for more than 20,000 people with disabilities.
But Senate Democrats said the GOP plan simply pits two groups of low-income Missourians against each other, arguing that the credit makes it possible for disabled and elderly Missourians to live independently at home.
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Renters can qualify for the tax credit if their income is less than $27,500 a year if single or $29,500 a year if married. Roughly 100,000 Missourians take advantage of the credit, with the average credit being around $500.
Democrats began a filibuster late Tuesday night, and it stretched on for hours before the bill was finally set aside shortly before 6 a.m. Wednesday.
“We’re talking about poor elderly people who as a household are making less than $30,000 a year,” said state Sen. Kiki Curls, a Kansas City Democrat. “Everybody in this chamber makes more than $30,000 a year. So it’s easy for us on this side to cut the credit for folks who are less fortunate.”
Republicans have argued that the state shouldn’t give a property tax credit to people who don’t own their home. The money saved by eliminating the tax credit can be of better use, they contend, funding other programs for elderly and disabled Missourians.
A key piece of the House’s version of the state budget would shift the $50 million saved from eliminating the tax credit into a fund that would offset the governor’s proposed cuts to in-home and nursing home services. If the Senate is unable to eliminate the tax credit, it will have to sort out how to fill that hole.
The Senate appropriations committee was originally scheduled to begin putting the finishing touches on its version of the budget Wednesday morning, but the meeting was canceled after the long night of debate.
Lawmakers have until May 5 to finish the budget and send it to the governor.