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Budget Deadline Drawing Near for Missouri Lawmakers

Jordan Shapiro, KMOX Capitol Bureau
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Missouri State Capitol 2, Getty Images, Dennis MacDonald
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) - The deep divisions among Republicans erupted again as the deadline approaches to pass the state’s budget.

Efforts to move the state’s budget along in the legislative process got delayed for a few hours Tuesday by the small renegade group of state Senators who have objected to the Senate’s budget process.

Members of the group of nine warned of potential filibusters before the May 11 deadline for passing the budget if their demands were not met in negotiations with the House on the final version of the budget.

Ultimately, the Republican dissidents agreed to sending the budget to a ten-member House-Senate negotiating committee.

House and Senate Republicans also continue to be divided on many issues in the budget, including the passage of a $70 million tax amnesty program. The program would give people who have not paid their taxes a grace period to pay up without penalty.

The House has passed the program and included the anticipated $70 million in revenue when they crafted their version of the state’s $24 billion budget. The Senate did not count on the money and passed their budget with additional cuts to programs including tourism and social services.

Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, said passing tax amnesty would be rewarding bad behavior.

Another sticking point between the House and Senate is funding to a special health care program for the blind. The program costs the state $28 million a year and benefits 2,800 blind people who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

The House eliminated the program, but Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, put the money back on the Senate floor.

House budget negotiators are planning to hold firm on the program’s elimination and Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield, said she was removed from the conference committee because she would not agree to keep the cut to the blind. Lampe is a House negotiator on every other part of the budget.

Democrats are not the only ones questioning the cuts to the blind. Purgason said the state needs tax credit reform instead of cutting more welfare programs.

“I refuse to go after poor people while we have developers drawing down huge amounts of money,” Purgason said.

The state is expected to pay $685 million in tax credit redemptions in 2013 and the fight to reign in tax credit programs derailed last fall’s special session.

The House and Senate are expected to meet Wednesday afternoon to begin formal talks on the budget. The state budget must be sent to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk by May 11.

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