Legislative column

On Oct. 19, the governor announced some troubling news for many of our state’s most at-risk citizens. As part of a move to balance the budget for Fiscal Year 2016, the governor has called for the restriction of $46.1 million in General Revenue funding – effectively cutting off the flow of much-needed money into programs and services that impact the elderly, the mentally ill, children and other vulnerable groups.

This withholding of funds from those who need it most is not only unacceptable, it is also unnecessary. This year’s state revenue has been high and the budget currently has $325 million in unspent surplus. Why, then, is funding being taken from these important programs that are supposed to improve the lives of Missourians who need the state’s help? 

The governor claims he has made efforts to minimize the impact the budget cuts will have, though I believe these words ring empty. The budget cuts do not need to be made in the first place as the funding withheld from them could simply be generated from the state’s surplus instead. Here are just a few of the programs that will be affected or canceled due to these withholdings, as well as the amount withheld from each.

  • Nursing facilities provider rate increase – Funding withheld: $3,373,442
  • In home services provider rate increase – Funding withheld: $2,852,991
  • Comprehensive psychiatric services provider rate increase – Funding withheld: $2,031,432
  • DD community programs provider rate increase – Funding withheld: $3,455,430
  • Medicaid Physician – Funding withheld: $2,5000,000
  • Community Health Access Programs (CHAPs) – Funding withheld: $1,250,000
  • Rural Health Clinic Dental – Funding withheld: $500,000
  • Missouri Area Health Education Centers – Funding withheld: $250,000
  • Juvenile Officer Pilot Program – Funding withheld: $210,541 

I am deeply troubled by the governor’s announcement and am concerned about the future of these, and many more, programs that help better the lives of at-risk Missourians. I believe that the 2016 budget should be balanced by allocating this year’s surplus funds, rather than withholding money used to fund programs that help those who need it most.

While I would never promote the unnecessary spending of surplus dollars simply because they are available, I do condone using the excess in an equitable and appropriate manner in order to save at-risk citizens from having to suffer the cost. I would never pointlessly deprive my constituents of the aid they need and deserve, and I strongly disagree with the governor’s irresponsible stewardship of surplus funds. I will continue to fight for the thousands of Missourians who will have to bear the brunt of this senseless decision.

Mike Cunningham is a Republican member of the Missouri State Senate, representing District 33. Contact him at 573-751-1882 or visit www.senate.mo.gov/cunningham

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