Barbour Says Medicaid Issue Unresolved

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Gov. Haley Barbour says he won't call lawmakers back for a special session to pass a state budget because a Medicaid agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators prevents him from making spending reductions in the program.

The lawmakers' agreement includes a hospital tax that begins at $60 million, but could increase to $90 million when the state's share of the federal stimulus runs out in 2010.

The agreement also prohibits any cuts to providers below the rates currently in effect. Barbour said he will fight the proposal.

Barbour said "there is no reason to call a special session when such enormous Medicaid issues remain unresolved."

House Speaker Billy McCoy said he's disappointed.

“I’m more than sad and so are the vast majority of the citizens of Mississippi,” McCoy said. “I started this day on a high note with great optimism that finally partisan politics would be set aside and the peoples’ business would be handled.”

“Since 1988, governors have been required to balance the Medicaid budget when deficits occur,” said Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant. “I agree with Gov. Barbour that this authority should not be removed. I am hopeful we can continue our efforts to reach a funding agreement for Medicaid without such a dramatic change in Executive authority.

Bryant also expressed his appreciation to the speaker and the House budget chairman for their full cooperation and dedication in the effort to resolve the budget deadlock.

“The spirit of cooperation has been beneficial to the process,” Bryant said.

Barbour contends that the “agreement in principle” between the House and Senate is flawed and would give Medicaid a blank check and expose Mississippi taxpayers to the risk of a "severe, illegal budget deficit".

Bryant also pointed out Mississippi governors are required to balance the Medicaid budget when deficits occur and that authority should not be removed.

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