Jackson County could get some financial relief from the state of Missouri on the cost of housing inmates.
A county lobbyist, Fred Dreiling, on Monday gave county legislators an update on the Missouri General Assembly’s 2014 session, which wrapped up a month ago.
It costs Jackson County about $70 a day to house someone in the county jail. If that person is eventually convicted on a state charge, the state will reimburse the county $19.58 cents a day. That figure was reduced a few years ago, to the chagrin of local officials. The General Assembly now has put that figure at $22.58 – a significant boost, but county officials are cautious.
Gov. Jay Nixon, citing tight finances, has withheld funding in a variety of areas in the last few years, and County Executive Mike Sanders expressed a concern that he will again. In essence, he says, the state is pushing some of its costs onto county and, therefore, local taxpayers.
“So the governor’s going to withhold a bunch of money from a bunch of different places,” Dreiling said. “Hopefully, the prisoner per diem won’t be part of that.”
Dreiling also touched on other issues:
• County officials have for several years expressed concern about long-term funding for 911 service. Missouri is the only state to pay for that through taxes on land lines, not cell phones, even though cell phones are largely replacing land lines and they are the source of 80 percent of 911 calls.
Rep. Jeanie Lauer, R-Blue Springs, for several years has worked to get that changed by letting counties put a cell-phone tax on the ballot, among other options, but, Dreiling noted, again this year that bill died in the Senate.
• Dreiling noted what seems to be growing support for expanding Medicaid, as Gov. Nixon has called for. “I think Medicaid does have a chance next year,” he said.
Also, Monday, county legislators meet in closed session briefly and then voted to settle a lawsuit filed by an Oak Grove man, Harvey J. Gregory, over a motor vehicle accident on a county road, an accident Gregory contended was caused at least in part by overgrown vegetation. The county will pay him $275,000.