The reallocation of $28 million from the Supplemental Aid to the Blind program funds medical care for more than 2,800 people who earn too much too qualify for the Medicaid but do already receive payments from a state blind pension fund.
That proposal came from an appropriations committee that looks into budget requests made by the state departments of Health and Senior Services, Mental Health, and Social Services. Money from the reallocation was placed into the budget line item that funds higher education and is intended to help offset a proposed $66 million cut to higher education proposed by Gov. Jay Nixon
Democrats on the appropriations committee protested the reallocation of the blind fund monies because they say they didn't see the proposal until the day the committee voted on the budget recommendations.
Speaking to reporters Thursday,
Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Ryan Silvey,
"There's the emotional argument that just labels people and groups them together, then there's the argument where you actually look at the program and you talk about 2,800 people who have income that is too much for Medicaid, that's the population we're talking about," Silvey said. "This cut will only affect people who are employed, who have income and are treated differently under the current system than people with any other disability."
Gary Wunder, president of the national Federation of the Blind of Missouri said the cut is too much too soon.
"There ought to be some thought given to the transition for people," Wunder said. "Figure out what the options are, make sure that they know what their options are, and make sure the state knows what its responsibility is to help them exercise those options."
Wunder said blind people don't
appreciate being placed in the middle of a debate over the funding of higher
"We've heard people in the Senate say the House can do what they want with it, but it's not going to go anywhere in the Senate," he said. "But I don't think that it's a proposal that blind people can easily dismiss. I think if we have a story to tell, we'd better be telling it."
Silvey's projection on the budget for higher education and for elementary and secondary education includes a $40 million payment from the state's share of the national home loan settlement. Silvey said the final figures would hold spending on education on all levels steady from a year ago.