HEADLINES : Missouri
Mo. budget talks on hold over veterans' home money
Negotiators charged with crafting a final version of Missouri's $24 billion budget decided Thursday to make no decisions until the Senate takes action on a new funding plan for veterans' nursing homes.
The stalemate appeared likely to drag the budget talks into next week, causing lawmakers to bump up against a May 11 constitutional deadline to send a budget to Gov. Jay Nixon. Missouri's new budget year begins July 1.
Different versions of the budget put forth by the governor, House and Senate all assume that Missouri's seven nursing homes for military veterans will receive a dedicated funding stream so that they no longer have to compete for general state revenues. Legislative and executive leaders have agreed on an outline for that earmarked funding source, but a bill authorizing it has yet to be debated by the full the Senate.
On Thursday, a budget conference committee of House and Senate members convened briefly, but only to say that no further meetings would occur until the Senate acts on the veterans' legislation.
"The veterans' home issue is kind of the linchpin of this entire budget right now," said House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City.
Veterans' homes have been funded with a mixture of payments from their residents, federal funds, state general revenues and a small portion of the state fees collected from casinos. But the main trust fund for the Missouri Veterans Commission, which had $80 million in 1999, has shrunk to $17 million after being repeatedly tapped to offset cuts in general revenue appropriations.