[Nfbmo] FW: Post-Dispatch on Senate hearing

Gary Wunder GWunder at earthlink.net
Wed Apr 4 19:01:45 UTC 2012

I send this along for your information.  Note that the article did not
include us, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the arguments used in
the petition were taken directly from what we wrote, and many of the
signatures are ones that we have helped to generate.  I think we should
worry less at this moment about who gets the publicity than whether or not
we achieve our goal.


From: Murphey, Sam [mailto:Sam.Murphey at mo.gov] 
Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2012 1:55 PM
To: 'DHuff at MoBlind.Org'; 'David Ekin'; 'Christopher Gray'; 'Gary Wunder';
'Gina Gowin'; 'rmabry at alphapointe.org'; Bundy, Seth D
Subject: Post-Dispatch on Senate hearing

Good coverage in the Post-Dispatch copied below.  Note the specific
reference to the more than 1,000 signatures on the petition.  Keep up the
good work!



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.

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