Try as they might, Missouri state legislators have struggled to agree on how to salvage funding for 8,000 disabled citizens, people who need help to continue living in their own homes.
Lawmakers have kicked around a range of options to make good on their promise to reverse these cruel budget cuts to in-home care, but have shown little urgency in settling upon a solution.
Late Friday, they threw themselves a lifeline, asserting that far fewer people would be stripped of their in-home aid than previously believed.
Time and more study will reveal how many people lost their services and what it will take to restore this essential aid. And as House Speaker Todd Richardson noted, “there is still going to be a funding problem moving forward.”
A recent state auditor’s report detailing how much tax incentives and exemptions cost the state offers some helpful ideas for finding the funds needed to fully restore this assistance.
One 2015 change alone is costing the state dearly.
Auditor Nicole Galloway chronicled the damage of the 2015 law, which affects corporate income from interstate sales. The business giveaway was predicted to cost $15.2 million annually. Instead, corporate income tax collections have decreased by $177 million, according to the report.
That’s a hefty chunk of uncollected change. It’s about five times more than the $35 million legislators believed was needed to fund the in-home care.
The debate about how to pay for care for disabled Missourians revealed a telling divide. Democrats want to roll back that 2015 tax cut or tap reserves. But some Republicans are okay with taking away a property tax credit offered to seniors who rent their homes.
Hurting a different vulnerable population is a bad option. Go for the corporate tax cut repeal.
When Gov. Eric Greitens rolled out his budget priorities early this year, he chose a preschool near Springfield for the backdrop as he detailed a plan that undercut the elderly and disabled. Perhaps he was hopeful that cheery children might distract from the fact that he planned to end in-home care and nursing services for 20,000 disabled Missourians.
Blowback was swift. By the time the governor signed the budget in June, 8,000 disabled people — far fewer than the 20,000 originally targeted — stood to lose the help they need to stay in their homes.
Legislators eventually vowed to make up the difference.
At the preschool, Greitens initially claimed his budget was “a conservative, responsible budget that tries to do right by Missouri’s people.”
Except, that is, if a Missourian is disabled or elderly.