Silver legislators disappointed in last session, look to future for seniors’ agenda

After being disappointed by legislative efforts at bolstering state meals programs statewide, the Silver Haired Legislature once more has identified the issue as a priority for the year during a recent meeting.

Judy Baumgartner, Callaway County’s silver legislator, wrote in an email that officers for the Central Missouri area also identified expanding Medicaid as a priority bill, with redirection of recouped Medicaid payments back into the program instead of into general revenue and raising the tobacco tax with proceeds to go to health care as alternate priorities.

Baumgartner wrote that “we are very disappointed that our legislators passed only one of our priorities this past session,” when it extended the MO RX program.

“It seems that our legislators were more interested in passing an income tax cut for businesses and the wealthy than they were in addressing social and senior issues,” Baumgartner wrote.

She identified funding for senior meals as one of the most important senior issues that did not have desired results last year.

Although Gov. Jay Nixon had proposed giving Area Agencies on Aging $1 million for the meals program as requested by the Silver Haired Legislature, Baumgartner said the state legislature allocated $400,000 for the cause.

“When you divide $400,000 by the approximately 270 senior centers statewide, it does not quite amount to $1,500 for each center,” she wrote. “That would not cover the cost of food for a month!”

According to Baumgartner, the $400,000 was later vetoed by Nixon.

She said other bills for which the silver legislators advocated last year, such as creating relief for seniors from increasing residential property taxes, payday loan restrictions and retaining the property tax credit for seniors did not receive serious attention.

“We will continue to monitor and advocate for all of these issues, but I think our current legislators have forgotten that 77 percent of seniors vote, and we will remember their actions come election day in November,” Baumgartner wrote.

Baumgartner’s update on the Silver Haired Legislature also included a note about increased need at the Callaway Senior Center, which she said is becoming increasingly reliant on fundraising due to cuts in state and federal funding.

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