Missouri Senate panel votes to end renters’ tax break

Despite pleas from the poor not to do so, a Senate budget panel voted Tuesday to do away with a longtime tax break for low-income seniors and disabled residents who live in rented homes.

The legislation backed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and Republican Senate leaders would eliminate a tax credit for about 104,000 low-income renters while leaving it in place for a slightly larger pool of homeowners. The $57 million in savings would be redirected to mental health care, nursing homes and home-based health and living services that could benefit disabled people and seniors.

The bill, which now goes to the full Senate, would implement a recommendation by a tax credit review commission.

But recipients of the tax break testified Tuesday that it helps them pay for utilities, medical bills, clothing and other daily living expenses.

“I ask you please not to pass this bill,” pleaded Charlotte Moten, 56, of St. Louis, who has a foot disability and a jaw condition that causes recurring tumors in her mouth. Moten said she gets about $500 from the tax credit, which she uses for her dental costs.

If the tax credit is repealed, “quite possibly it could endanger my life because there are no resources I could use for satisfying the desperate need I have” to remove tumors, she told The Associated Press.

Cory McMahon, 25, of St. Louis, is blind and has cerebral palsy. He told senators that his $750 tax credit — the maximum allowed for renters — could help pay an outstanding ambulance bill, cellphone bill or be used for clothing.

Nixon has proposed to allot $1 million from the abolished tax credit to the Missouri Area Agencies on Aging, which provide home-delivered meals, transportation and other services for older adults. But Catherine Edwards, executive director of an association for those agencies, said she would rather leave that money in the pockets of the people the agencies serve.

“That little bit of self-determination means a lot to a person to be able to buy an item they need,” she said.

The only person testifying in support of the legislation was Nixon’s budget director. But the plan also got support from some Republican senators.

Sen. Mike Parson of Bolivar said he rents housing to others and questioned the necessity of the tax credit for several of his senior tenants.

“There are many, many people out there who receive money from this program who do not need it,” Parson said.