Governor vetoes education cuts from Medicaid budget fix bill; Senate still plans to return April 6

03/25/2011 04:57 PM

Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday announced that he would take out provisions calling for certain budget cuts from the legislature’s bill to fix Medicaid — a measure that would spare doctors and hospitals from 35% state funding cuts.

Beshear announced the vetoes late Friday afternoon. Among the provisions he took out of the Medicaid bill was language that would have cut the budgets of schools, universities, veteran’s affairs programs and public safety if a certain amount of efficiencies in Medicaid weren’t achieved.

Beshear and Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Janie Miller have pledged to save at least $169 million in the 2012 Medicaid budget through efficiencies. They hope to accomplish much of that by entering into contracts with hospitals and health care agencies to manage care of portions of the Medicaid program.

Medicaid, a $6 billion program through the federal and state governments, covers health care for more than 800,000 poor and disabled Kentuckians. If lawmakers failed to agree on fixing a more than $100 million shortfall in this year’s Medicaid budget, doctors and hospitals could have faced 35% cuts in the state’s reimbursement payments.

But the House, late Thursday, concurred with the most recent plan the Senate had edited even though the House Democrats and most House Republicans objected to some of the provisions — specifically proposed cuts to education in 2012. But by passing the bill, it sent it to the governor so he could use his veto pen.

“We are thankful these reductions to provider reimbursement have been averted by the courageous actions of the Kentucky House last night,” Beshear said in a statement. “We are now able to avoid negative impacts to the provider community and to ensure that health care services are not affected for many of our most vulnerable children, seniors and other citizens with disabilities.”

In response to the vetoes, House Speaker Greg Stumbo issued a statement with a told-you-so tone to it.

“The Governor did what he said he would do when it comes to upholding our shared priorities. I never doubted that, nor did 80 percent of the entire General Assembly,” Stumbo’s statement said.

Before the governor announced his vetoes late Friday afternoon, Senate President David Williams said he hoped the House leaders would reconsider their attempt to end the special session and instead return on April 6 to override vetoes.

Otherwise, Williams said the House is giving the governor “a credit card” to do whatever he wants.

Williams is running in the May 17 Republican primary for the nomination to challenge Beshear in the November election.

The fight over the Medicaid budget has been intertwined with gubernatorial politics as both Beshear and Williams directed pointed remarks and criticism at each other.

Williams said in numerous interviews he considered the governor “weak” and doubted his ability to come through with savings. Beshear made a two-day, nine-stop trip calling for voters to call Republican Senators — specifically Williams — to tell him to back off calls for cuts to education.

After announcing the vetoes late Friday, Beshear’s campaign issued a statement to supporters essentially declaring a victory.

“This afternoon, I fulfilled my promise to balance the Medicaid budget while protecting education, health care and public safety by line-item vetoing Senator Williams’ unnecessary and dangerous cuts from House Bill 1,” said Beshear’s letter to supporters.

The vetoes were part of a plan between the governor and House leaders that they unfurled late Thursday.

The House approved the Senate’s version of House Bill 1, despite some remaining objections especially over proposed education cuts.

Instead of “wasting time” in conference committee between the deadlocked sides, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the House would pass the Senate plan and let the governor veto parts he didn’t like.

The House then adjourned in hopes of ending the special session until the Senate opted to recess until April 6.

But Stumbo said there is no chance of the House returning to override any of the governor’s vetoes.

And Stumbo added that if the Senate had just not included cuts to education in their plan, then he thought House and Senate leaders would have been able to quickly work out a compromise.

But keeping those educations cuts in their plan led Stumbo to say he didn’t believe the Senate was serious about compromise.

Beshear said enacting the legislation would save 35 percent cuts to Medicaid.

- Kenny Colston


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