The State’s Blind Pension Fund
The Springfield News-Leader and the AP have a story about a recent lawsuit by a group of blind citizens who claim the state has been underpaying them from the state’s blind pension fund. They won, but my purpose here is not to debate the lawsuit. Rather, it’s to ask whether you, gentle readers, knew that we had a blind pension fund.
I did, of course — but, then again, I am about to publish a study that actually mentions it, albeit briefly. It is funded by Missouri’s only statewide property tax, and because this is not general revenue, it’s not under the control of elected officials. It constitutes a very small part of your real and personal property tax bills each year, and — thanks to the article — you all know exactly what it goes toward: The blind people of Missouri who are unemployed and receive no other aid get $609 per month from the fund.
I have to wonder what the future holds for this fund. Total counts for the blind are rising, even as rates of childhood blindness are falling. This is because people are living longer, and are therefore more apt to go blind late in life. But blindness rates among the general population seem to be dropping, based on my very brief research.
With the elderly population being recipients of Social Security and Medicare, I wonder whether we will see a substantial drop in the number of people using the state’s Blind Pension fund during the coming decades. And, if so, would — and should — that lead to large increases in per-person coverage, or cuts to the tax? The relevant tax is currently very small, set at 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. By my math, that equals $10.40 a year for a house worth $200,000. No sense in cutting that tax, although it is certainly more valuable in a myriad of ways to support the wonderful groups that work for the blind in their efforts to find employment, rather than just saying, “We have a fund,” and being done with it.
Even I am not mean enough to call for cuts in aid to the blind, although I admit I thought the SNL sketch was funny — so I guess I am sort of a bastard.