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Charlene Day hopes funding isn't eliminated in Jeff City

Charlene Day, 55, sits in front of her computer in her apartment in the Council Towers Senior Apartments in St. Louis on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Day hopes that funding is not cut for programs she needs that help to keep her living semi-independently. Day said she can't afford a computer program that would make it easier for her to alert emergency personel if she has a health problem. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY • Despite high level meetings designed to stop cuts affecting elderly and disabled Missourians, it remains unclear whether Republicans who control state government have found a solution.

On Wednesday, Gov. Eric Greitens’ office confirmed he had met with the lead Senate negotiator to discuss a plan to restore $35 million to the state budget in order to ensure that 8,300 people don’t lose access to in-home health care.

But, in a statement, Greitens’ spokesman Parker Briden did not say whether the governor is prepared to call a special session after his sit-down with Sen. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville.

“The governor had a productive meeting with Sen. Cunningham. We’re always happy to receive proposals. The governor will continue to push for sound budgets,” Briden noted.

The push for a fix came after Greitens proposed in February to cut health care for low-income seniors and disabled people. Lawmakers averted the cuts in their budget plan by skimming unused money out of special state funds, but Greitens called the maneuver a one-time gimmick and vetoed it.

GOP leaders called for negotiators to hammer out a compromise, but their informal deadline expired 10 days ago with no deal in place.

Under the latest plan backed by Cunningham, the state will generate money by limiting the number of elderly renters who receive a tax break known as the “circuit breaker.”

Cunningham said people who earn more than $22,000 will no longer qualify for the credit, which averages about $500 per year.

The plan also would allow veterans and the spouses of police and fire personnel to continue receiving the tax break.

And, said Cunningham, people who are totally disabled would not be affected.

“I just flat out refuse to cut 100 percent disabled,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said the governor was “receptive” to the plan.

And, Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said he was optimistic the Legislature could tackle the issue.

“I think we do have a plan to go forward,” Kehoe told Missourinet in an interview.

But, with Greitens out of the state on a trade mission to Europe until next week, there is no indication what, if anything, comes next.

Democrats remain opposed to tapping into the “circuit breaker” as a source of funding.

“To date, we have yet to see a better proposal than the bipartisan bill passed during legislative session that would tap existing, unused funds to prevent Gov. Greitens’ cuts to services for the elderly and those with disabilities. Until there is a better bill, one that does not simply shift the burden from one vulnerable population to another, the only person who can stop the governor’s cuts is the governor himself,” said Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors.

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