JEFFERSON CITY - Republican lawmakers dismissed Gov. Bob Holden's call for a constitutional amendment Monday to make it more difficult for the legislature to cut state funding for health coverage for welfare recipients.
Holden's proposition came in direct response to the budget plan currently being considered by the House. Holden said the amendment would protect MC+ for Kids, which provides health insurance for over 80,000 children in Missouri.
"A constitutional amendment is not something to be taken lightly, but it is the right choice to protect Missouri kids," Holden said in a news release. "These House-approved cuts are based on mean-spirited ideology and short-sighted economics."
Republicans immediately denounced the proposal as election-year politics.
"It's all about politics and position," said House Health Care Policy Chairman Roy Holand, R-Springfield. "He's running for his life."
One of the facets of the current House budget plan would call for monthly premiums from more families in the MC+ for Kids program. Opponents of the plan charge that many Missourians would drop their coverage in lieu of paying the monthly fees.
Another portion of the House budget plan came from the governor himself. If passed, a $25,000 cap would be placed on personal assets for MC+ for Kids families. Exemptions would be made for property such as houses and vehicles.
Neither the governor nor his chief spokesperson were in Jefferson City Monday for questions.
If the proposed amendment is enacted, it would require a two-thirds approval, also known as a super majority, of both chambers of the General Assembly to approve reductions in coverage or increases in premium payments from the level in effect on January 1, 2004. Currently only a majority of elected members is required.
Before Holden's proposal reaches the ballot in November, it must successfully maneuver through both chambers--an unlikely outcome, according to House Budget Chairman Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles.
"There's no way that it makes good policy sense to put a program like this into the Constitution," Bearden said.
Rep. Mike Sager, D-Jackson County, agreed the measure may not fair well on the House floor--but for different reasons.
"I don't think they (Republicans) have the guts to put this on the floor," Sager said. "Remember, they're cowards."
Sager will sponsor Holden's proposal in the House and said he will call for it to be read this week.