Before dozens of parents and their children in Springfield Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon worked to apply more pressure on lawmakers into funding the First Steps program in what he calls “a responsible way.” As KSMU’s Scott Harvey reports, the Governor told the crowd he planned to veto the alternative funding plan, which he followed through with upon returning to the Capitol.
Missouri’s early intervention program provides services to families with children, birth to three years of age, with disabilities or developmental delays. Parents like Desiree Byars say the funding helps her son Liam, who suffers from an undiagnosed genetic neuromuscular condition, receive the treatment he needs.
“A lot of times Liam isn’t able to go to the hospital and to the outpatient facilities for therapies, and so they come to the home and work with him and give us ways that we can utilize what we have at our home to help him,” Byars said.
First Steps was set to get an additional $1.5 million in funding for the next fiscal year, for a total of $20 million. But last week, the legislature voted to fund the program with revenues from the repeal of the circuit breaker tax credit, which benefits low-income seniors and disabled people who live in rental housing.
“This trade-off is not necessary, and should not be tolerated. Especially when it comes to our state’s most vulnerable citizens,” Nixon said.
Just hours after delivering those remarks in Springfield, the Governor returned to Jefferson City where he vetoed Senate Bill 350, saying the legislation does not constitute comprehensive tax credit reform. In a release late Tuesday, Nixon stated, “Effective tax credit reform must be broad-based and designed to ensure that all tax credit programs provide a strong return for taxpayers, our communities and our economy.”
The Governor’s budget recommended re-investing funds generated by the elimination of the renters’ portion of the tax credit into services for low-income seniors. But Nixon’s office says the General Assembly instead passed a budget that “directs savings that would be realized from the program’s repeal to programs unrelated to seniors.”
On Monday, a Senate panel amended a bill to create a $55 million state fund from general revenues to be used for services to the disabled and low-income seniors. The bill is intended to ensure there is no drop in funding for First Steps.
The Missouri legislative session ends at 6 p.m. Friday.