Updated 5 p.m., Wed., May 6 -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had harsh words for the General Assembly’s action to override his veto of a bill that shortens the period for low-income families to receive welfare benefits. The bill also imposes new work requirements.
During a stop in St. Louis, the governor said he didn't object to changing the work requirements. But he did object to the way it was done, which his administration says will result in about 6,500 children getting knocked off the state's welfare rolls.
"You don't move the state forward by taking benefits away from 6,500 kids,'' Nixon said. He explained that there were ways, such as a "protected payee program" that would have penalized the parents, but not the children.
"What did a 5-year-old do wrong?" he asked. "There were a lot of ways where kids didn't have to suffer here."
Read our earlier story below:
Missouri lawmakers have successfully overridden Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of legislation to reduce lifetime eligibility for welfare recipients.
The Missouri House today voted 113-24 to overturn Nixon's veto of Senate Bill 24. It would limit lifetime eligibility of people enrolled in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF, to three years and nine months from five years.
The sponsor, Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, hailed the bill's passage as an incentive to get low-income Missourians fully back into the work force.
"We currently have a broken system that discourages work and needlessly creates welfare dependency. Missouri is not the first state to go in this direction, but we are unique because we are reinvesting the money we save into resources to improve work participation and empower more Missourians to become employed and independent."
House Minority Floor Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, blasted the override of Nixon's veto.
"To take the extraordinary step of overriding a veto to ensure that more than 6,300 of Missouri's poorest children are plunged even deeper into poverty is mind blowing in its cruelty. Missouri Republicans are engaged in nothing short of an all-out war on the poor and, unfortunately, they are winning."
Fellow Democrat Geniese Montecillo of St. Louis County also argued against the bill on the House floor before the vote:
"People don't receive these benefits because they want to, they do it because they're struggling," Montecillo said. "They're struggling to find employment; they're struggling to put food on their family's table."
Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, handled the Senate bill on the House floor. She says the shorter eligibility period is meant to get welfare recipients back to work.
"There are jobs out there; there are good jobs out there," Franklin said, "but we have to have a program that helps those that have not been able to take advantage of education, employment, or even being involved in the work activities to get to those activities."
House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, also weighed in after the veto override:
"The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program is meant to be a short-term bridge back to self-sufficiency rather than a system that condemns Missouri families to a lifetime of poverty and dependence on government assistance. This Republican-led legislature has put much-needed, common sense reforms in place that will move the program back toward its intended purpose to help Missourians in need to get back on their feet and back into the workforce."
In addition to the shorter eligibility period, Senate Bill 24 would also require recipients to be employed or at least seeking employment. Those who fail to do so could lose half of their benefits for a maximum of 10 weeks. They would then forfeit all benefits if they continue to refuse to look for work.
Other provisions would require TANF recipients to be employed to be eligible for SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.
Also, 2 percent of TANF funds will be set aside for alternatives to abortion programs, as well as programs that encourage "healthy marriages" and "responsible fatherhood."
Legislation vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon last month that would reduce welfare benefits in Missouri is one step closer to becoming law, anyway.
The Senate on Monday night voted 25-9 along party lines to override Nixon's veto of Senate Bill 24, which would reduce lifetime eligibility for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF, to three years and nine months from five years. It was sponsored by Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville.
"The policies of this Senate Bill 24 will save the program, not the state, not the federal government, will save the program over $21 million."
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, disagreed, saying that many of those who get cut off could be forced into a life of crime.
"They're gonna find a way to make ends meet, and if they have to go rob, shoot, steal, and kill, that's what many of those individuals may do," Nasheed said. "At the end of the day, we're going to have to house those individuals in prisons here in the state of Missouri."
Senate President Pro-tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, told reporters after the override vote that TANF benefits were meant to be temporary, and that the bill is designed to encourage recipients to look for work.
It now goes to the Missouri House, which is also expected to override Nixon's veto.
In his veto message April 30, Nixon said, "I don't sign bills that hurt kids, period."
Nixon and other Democratic opponents say that SB 24 would result in 6,465 children losing TANF benefits on Jan. 1, 2016. Several Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, dispute that figure, saying it would probably only affect about 83 families in Missouri.
(Jo Mannies contributed information to this article.)
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