Hurting blind people, coddling gun owners
The Kansas City Star
Give Kurt Schaefer credit. Unlike Ryan Silvey, his Missouri House counterpart, the Senate budget chairman is at least trying to take a more thoughtful approach to health care for blind Missourians.
Whereas Silvey, a Kansas City Republican, favors eliminating the longstanding aid program, which serves about 2,800 persons, Schaefer has proposed a more nuanced plan that calls for recipients to pay monthly premiums and deductibles.
To be sure, health care for the blind shouldn’t even be on the cutting board. The recipients have less than $20,000 in assets. Most are unemployed and many have medical conditions that will make it nearly impossible for them to obtain insurance on the individual market.
And Schaefer’s proposals would likely save the state only about $5.4 million on the $28 million program.
At least Schaefer, a Republican from Columbia, is looking for a middle ground, a refreshing change from the scorched earth approach of the House budget process.
Unfortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee chaired by Schaefer is embracing the terrible idea of cutting funding and reducing income eligibility limits for child care subsidies. Missouri’s income threshold is already the 48th lowest in the nation.
Loss of the subsidies would force thousands of low-income parents to choose between leaving their jobs, placing their children in danger or scrimping on food and other necessities to pay child care bills.
Lawmakers have dug themselves into a hole by refusing to consider revenue-generating measures. Even a $50 million tax amnesty program is being rejected by Senate hard-liners. But balancing a budget on the backs of blind people and low-income working parents shows a collective deficit of character.
Sam Brownback voted against the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act when he served in the U.S. Senate. And just because it became the law of the land doesn’t mean he has to like it.
That was the Kansas governor’s message when he announced he wouldn’t sign two bills recently approved by his Legislature. The bills are minor procedural measures required by Dodd-Frank, but Brownback isn’t dirtying his hands with them. They’ll become law without his signature.
He announced he has asked Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to investigate the Dodd-Frank act “in order to begin the process of defending Kansas from this unconstitutional incursion of federal authority over the states.”
We’d rather the Kansas attorney general spend his time fighting crime and protecting the state’s consumers. As for Brownback, it becomes clearer every week that the governor is playing to a national conservative audience that loves this show of defiance, even if it is completely meaningless.
NRA welcome mat
Everyone who is anyone in Republican politics, from Mitt Romney on down, is stopping in St. Louis for the four-day National Rifle Association convention now under way.
The Missouri legislature is also going out of its way to create a hospitable climate for the gun lobby.
The House has passed a bill allowing owners to store guns in cars even if property owners object, and another designating gun owners as a special protected class against workplace discrimination.
Members are considering a bill that would enable people to carry guns on buses and other forms of public transportation in Kansas City and St. Louis, even if the city governments object. A separate resolution proposes a constitutional amendment specifying that every citizen has the right to possess or purchase ammo, lest there be any doubt.
A sweet deal
Not everyone in the Missouri Capitol has a problem with raising revenues. A coalition of advocacy groups, led by Progress Missouri, sponsored a bake sale on Tuesday to raise money for the state treasury.
“Until legislators get serious about a streamlined sales tax, stop coddling cigarette companies and ask multinational corporations to pay their fair share, we have to invest in our public structures and systems somehow!” Progress Missouri explained.
The sale raised a whopping $238 for the state’s general fund. We wouldn’t call that half baked, but a reasonable increase in Missouri’s lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax would make a whole lot more sense.