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“…We don’t strengthen families by hurting children…”

Governor Jay Nixon [2014 file photo].

Governor Jay Nixon vetoed SB 24 which would have cut a large number of poor Missourians from assistance:

April 30, 2015

“I don’t sign bills that hurt kids – period,” Gov. Nixon says of bill that would affect an estimated 6,400 needy children in Missouri

Kansas City, MO

Gov. Jay Nixon today joined advocates for children and families at Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City to announce his veto of Senate Bill 24, which would hurt needy children. The bill would remove an estimated 6,400 poor children from public assistance, including more than 2,600 children under the age of five.

“Children already suffer lifelong consequences from poverty; penalizing them further for their parents’ behavior is mean-spirited and just plain wrong,” said Gov. Nixon. “When it comes to adults, we can all agree on the need for personal responsibility, but these are children.  I don’t sign bills that hurt kids – period.”

The legislation contains two provisions that would negatively impact needy children.  First, the bill would reduce the lifetime limit for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits to 45 months, without providing an exception for children. As a result, if Senate Bill 24 became law, approximately 6,465 children would be cut off from benefits on January 1st, 2016.  An estimated 40 percent of these children are under the age of five.  In addition, the bill would also impose a penalty on the child of a parent who fails to engage in work activities and fails to authorize, as it has in other circumstances, a protective payee to receive and administer the child’s share of the benefits.

“There are ways that the legislature could ensure that parents are held accountable for their decisions while at the same time protecting kids — for example, by providing benefits through a responsible guardian,” said Gov. Nixon. “But again, legislators left children unprotected.  They say they’re trying to crack down on adults, but they’ve made kids the collateral damage.”

The legislation is opposed by Empower Missouri, the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, Operation Breakthrough, the Missouri Association for Community Action, Missouri Faith Voices, Child Care Aware of Missouri, the American Academy of Pediatrics-Missouri Chapter, the Missouri Children’s Leadership Council, Paraquad and other groups representing children and families across Missouri.

“I cannot condone the hardships imposed on innocent children that Senate Bill No. 24 would require – first, by unnecessarily cutting the length of time that children can receive benefits even when their parents are working and second, by cruelly eliminating their benefits if their parents are not meeting work requirements,” the Governor’s veto message reads. “Missouri law should not mandate such meanness toward innocent children.”

In Fiscal Year 2014, 13 percent fewer families received TANF benefits than did so in Fiscal Year 2013.

[….]

The Governor’s office provided a transcript of his remarks:

Gov. Nixon announces his veto of Senate Bill 24

April 30, 2015

Good morning and thank you for joining us.  I’d like to first thank the many dedicated advocates, educators and caregivers here with us here today.

These folks see the devastating impact that poverty can have on a child’s well-being and development.  Through no fault of their own, thousands of Missouri children know what it means to go without.

Some of the signs are obvious, like kids showing up at school without coats in the winter.  Some of the more pernicious effects of poverty – hunger, homelessness, neglect — may not be as immediately obvious, but over time exact a heavy toll.

For thousands of Missouri children, going without can mean not having access to simple, but critical things, like books, preschool, healthy food and safe places to play and exercise. Things that help children thrive and grow in mind and body.  It can mean being unable to imagine a future outside of poverty.

As Missourians and as Americans – we want every child to grow up healthy and strong.

That’s why, this morning, I vetoed Senate Bill 24.

SB 24 is a misguided measure that punishes poor children in the legislature’s zeal to reduce reliance on government assistance.

Supporters of this bill have called it the “Strengthening Missouri Families Act.”

Let me be clear.

We don’t strengthen families by hurting children.

If this bill were to become law, an estimated sixty-four hundred children – twenty-six hundred of whom are under the age of five — would be cut off on January 1st – even if their parents are complying with work requirements.  

Six-thousand four hundred kids… and tens of thousands more in the future.

Now the legislature could have protected children and infants from this arbitrary cutoff with any number of safeguards – but they didn’t.

That’s fundamentally unfair and it’s wrong.

And that’s not even the only provision in this bill children would have to be worried about.

Senate Bill 24 would also penalize a child for their parent’s failure to engage in work activities.

When it comes to adults, we can all agree on the need for personal responsibility… but these are kids.

There are methods in use right now in other situations that the legislature could ensure that parents are held accountable for their decisions – while at the same time protecting kids.  For example, by providing benefits through a responsible guardian.

But again, legislators left children unprotected.  They say they’re trying to crack down on adults – but they’ve made kids the collateral damage.

Folks, I don’t sign bills that hurt kids. Period.

Now, I understand that members of the legislature want to do more to encourage people to get off public assistance and into the workforce.

I share that concern.  That’s why, as Governor, I have fought for affordable health care and public education and invested in workforce development and job-training programs that work.

When parents get the education and skills they need to find good-paying jobs that can support their families – it’s better for everyone.

And if you look at the current trend, the number of families receiving temporary assistance is declining as a result of our growing economy.

In fiscal year 2014, the number of families receiving temporary assistance was down by 13 percent from the prior year.

That’s solid progress.

Now is the time to build on this progress – not undermine it by hurting kids.

Here in Missouri, protecting children has never been about politics.

In fact, the last time I was here at Operation Breakthrough I was signing bipartisan legislation to improve children’s health and safety and strengthen requirements on child care providers.

Children already suffer lifelong consequences from poverty; penalizing them further for their parents’ behavior is mean-spirited and just plain wrong.

It’s not who we are and I will not support it.

Once again, there are ways to do this that protect kids.  The legislature should shelve this unfair and harmful bill, and work together to do the right thing by children, families and all our citizens.

Thank you and now I’ll be happy to take any questions the press may have.

The Missouri General Assembly is dominated by a number of mean people.