To the editor:State Sen. Jason Crowell's op-ed article defends House Bill 444, which would eliminate state taxes on Social Security, saying it will help seniors keep food on the table and roofs over their heads. This is inaccurate.
Missouri's low-income seniors will not benefit from HB444, because those with incomes under $20,000 are not taxed on their Social Security benefits. Those who will gain the most are the 5 percent of wealthiest Missouri seniors with incomes of more than $100,000.
Crowell says Missouri is one 15 states that tax Social Security benefits, implying that we place onerous taxes on senior households. What he fails to say it that Missouri has low income taxes, ranking 38th of the 43 states that collect income tax.
Crowell also implies that Medicaid covers our most vulnerable citizens. The 2005 Medicaid cuts resulted in more than 100,000 low-income Missourians becoming uninsured. While the senator asserts that Medicaid growth was out of control, facts show otherwise. In 2004-2005 Missouri's Medicaid program insured 14 percent of the state's children and adults (excluding the elderly), equivalent to the national average. Missouri spends less per person ($69) on Medicaid than the average cost for all states ($84).
Missouri is challenged to adequately fund health insurance because taxes were cut substantially in the 1990s when the economy was rosy.
Making permanent tax cuts would assure that lowest income uninsured Missourians are the continued losers. Our citizens are compassionate. They do not want tax cuts for wealthy Missouri seniors at the expense of those with limited incomes.
RUTH R. EHRESMAN, Director of Health and Budget Policy, Missouri Budget Project, St. Louis