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One of the hardest challenges we as senators face when crafting the state operating budget is finding the best ways to manage funds in a tough budget year. After our proposal to preserve in-home and nursing care was vetoed by the governor last year, we have been looking for the best way forward. It is our duty as senators to formulate a fiscally responsible plan that ensures services are maintained for more than 8,000 Missourians who are reliant on in-home or specialized care.

Senate Bill 567 is the result of extensive discussion and the hard work of legislators, experts and stakeholders. These efforts have been focused on finding ways to fund critical functions of the state while still protecting our most vulnerable citizens. This legislation would restore about half of last year’s provider rate cuts and will provide funding to the Missouri Senior Services Protection Fund which services low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

As a state, we must operate within our means. Helping our most vulnerable citizens is important and a large portion of our budget is dedicated to helping vulnerable Missourians; however, the funds for these services must be balanced with our income. Additionally, we must ensure that social services programs are not taken advantage of and abused by individuals who take funds away from those who actually need the assistance.

Senate Bill 567 transfers funds from multiple different line items in the state budget to provide $25 million for in-home and nursing care. Additionally, the maximum income level would be moved to 100 percent of the national poverty level and the available tax credits through the Senior Citizens Property Tax Credit Program would be slightly reduced. These measures will provide room in the state budget to provide care for Missourians who have been struggling after they lost their assistance last year. I believe SB 567 takes a balanced and effective approach to protecting our most vulnerable Missourians.

This week the Senate Education Committee heard SB 577, which I sponsored, and SB 807. These two bills deal with the same subject matter, so they have been combined into one piece of legislation. With an increasingly tight state budget, it has become crucial that higher education institutions are operating efficiently. SCS SB 807 & 577 provides students the opportunity to earn degrees closer to home that were previously only offered through select universities. This is great for students who will have opportunities to choose from a wider selection of degrees without having a significant financial or regional burden.

This bill was created through hard work and cooperation between all of the higher education institutions and the Missouri Department of Higher Education and I believe it is a very positive step in the right direction for the future of higher education in Missouri. SCS SB 807 & 577 was voted out of the Missouri Senate Education Committee and will be heard on the Senate floor in the near future.

Senate Bowling Tournament

While it might seem like the Missouri Senate is all policy-making, we do have a lighter side. The annual Senate Bowling Tournament took place this week with record attendance from senators and staff. For the past four years, the Senate Bowling Tournament has benefited St. Raymond’s Society. Their mission is to support mothers by providing resources and assistance so that children have a stable home environment. This year, we raised $8,200 for this important organization, bringing our total contribution over the past four years to $30,000. Our team, “Romine’s Rollers” might not have placed very high in the final tally, but we had a fun night and supported a great cause.

My staff and I were very happy to welcome Janet Dickneite, Ray Hefner and Vicki Weible, who serves as the Farmington Circuit Clerk, to the Capitol this week. I welcome everyone from my district to stop by my office if they are ever in Jefferson City.

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at 573-751-4008. You may write me at Gary Romine, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101; or email me at gary.romine@senate.mo.gov; or www.senate.mo.gov/romine.

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