Nixon to sign funding stream for Mo. veterans homes
Gov. Jay Nixon is set to sign legislation that provides a dedicated funding source for the state’s veterans homes.
The measure redirects casino fees that now benefit early childhood programs into a trust fund for the Missouri Veterans Commission. Those early childhood funds will be replaced with money from the state’s tobacco settlement.
Missouri lawmakers have sent the governor a measure providing a dedicated funding source to veterans' nursing homes.
The bill given final approval Thursday by the House would earmark most of the state's fees from casinos to a trust fund for the Missouri Veterans Commission. The intent is to provide a permanent, predictable funding stream for the state's seven nursing homes that serve more than 1,300 military veterans.
With a Friday deadline looming, Missouri lawmakers finally reached a compromise on putting the final touches on the state budget.
The agreement addresses veterans’ homes, university funding and other sticking points: First, budget negotiators agreed to spread an additional $3 million among several universities, including Southeast Missouri State, and dropped a proposal to give $2 million to that school alone. Also, lawmakers will have to craft a Higher Education funding formula by the end of next year, which would be implemented in July 2014.
The Senate has made no progress on persuading Jason Crowell (R, Cape Girardeau) to stop blocking every bill in the Senate, including one to fund veterans’ homes. He says he has no objections to transferring gaming revenues from early childhood programs to nursing homes for military vets, but he won’t allow it or any other bill to advance unless the House strips more than $2 million in extra funding from Southeast Missouri State University. President Pro-tem Rob Mayer (R, Dexter) says other Senators have sided with Crowell on the issue.
The Missouri Senate has been shut down by one Senator over which version of legislation for veterans’ homes will be adopted.
Jason Crowell (R, Cape Girardeau) and several allies tied up the Senate for nearly 12 hours Monday night and are provoking a showdown with Senate leaders. In addition to using a filibuster to block the veterans’ homes bill, Crowell is using several motions to block all bills from being debated.
“We have some issues that need to be resolved in the Senate before we move forward, and they’re gonna be resolved one way or the other," Crowell said. "I will continue to make this series of motions on anything else that we do.”
House and Senate budget negotiators resumed talks today, but still have not resolved differences over how to fund veterans homes and health care for the blind.
They agreed on numerous budget items that have garnered little to no controversy. The House won out on its proposed pay raise for state workers – those earning under $70,000 a year would get a 2 percent raise starting in July. Kirk Schaefer (R, Columbia), the Senate’s chief negotiator, says he didn’t mind accepting the House’s position on pay raises.
With three weeks left in the legislative session, Governor Jay Nixon (D) is urging lawmakers to fund veterans’ homes, pensions for the blind and other specific needs in the still-unfinished state budget.
Nixon told reporters today that nursing homes for military veterans are woefully underfunded in next year’s $24 billion spending plan, and that a separate bill needs to be passed to insure a dedicated funding source for the homes.
“Missouri’s veterans’ home(s) provide critical services for thousands of men and women who have served our country with honor and bravery," Nixon said. "Let me be clear, that bill must get to my desk without delay.”