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Maxwell urges lawmakers to pass supplemental funds for prescription drug program

February 11, 2002
By: Brian Connolly
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 1115

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's lieutenant governor warned lawmakers there will be no prescription drug program for lower-income elderly unless lawmakers approve extra funds for the program.

Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell held a news conference Monday to push for a $4.9 million emergency appropriation that would cover the current budget year that ends June 30.

"If we don't get the supplemental through, there will not be a program," said Maxwell, a Democrat who also chairs the Missouri Prescription Program Commission.

Maxwell acknowledged that the chairmen of the Senate Appropriations Committee and House Budget Committee last month signed a letter of intent to support the administration's funding request for this fiscal year.

The bill remains in the House Budget Committee. As negotiations between legislators and the commission overseeing Missouri's senior prescription drug program became serious last week, Maxwell said he became aware of "misinformation and confusion" among members of the General Assembly regarding the supplemental money.

Maxwell singled out Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, as one member of the General Assembly with questions about the supplemental funds. Wilson, chairman of the House Appropriations-Health and Mental Health Committee, said many programs affecting seniors face cuts and she wants to make sure that funding one won't take away from another.

"I just wanted to make sure that with so little money, we were being as cost conscious and accurate with projections as possible," Wilson said.

Wilson also has questioned whether some of the costs for initiating the prescription drug program could be phased in over time -- pushing the costs into future budget years. She said she was in contact with Maxwell's staff on Monday to attempt to resolve her questions.

During last fall's special session, legislators created the prescription drug program to replace Missouri's prescription tax credit which ended on Dec. 31, 2001.

The new program is supposed to be operational by the start of the next fiscal year - July 1, 2002.

However, the administration argues it needs $4.9 million this current budget year to hire a private firm to administer the program and commence enrollment as scheduled this spring.

Enrollment will be be open from April 1 until May 30 of this year.