House Democrats dig in against cuts as potential of Medicaid compromise remains uncertain

03/16/2011 06:30 PM

Negotiations over the Medicaid budget have yet to restart between Senate and House leaders after a week, and House Democrats don’t want to budget on allowing cuts to agencies, one leader said.

‘We don’t think cuts are necessary,” said Rep. Tommy Thompson, the House Democratic majority whip from Owensboro. “There’s not reason to agree to them.”

The General Assembly is struggling to find common ground on how to plug a more than $100 million budget deficit in the Medicaid program. Gov. Steve Beshear and House Democrats want to move money from the 2012 budget and make up the difference next year through efficiencies.

Specifically, they say the money can be made up by signing contracts with medical providers to manage parts of Medicaid, such as prescription drugs or mental health care in certain regions of the state.

“We want to do it with a managed care model, which has been shown to work successfully in a number of other states,” Thompson said.

He confirmed that House Democrats and Republicans have been in talks on a counter-proposal and said he believes the two groups are unified against cuts, particularly in education.

“We certainly think that a majority of the Republican members of the House are in agreement,” he said.

This comes as the Senate Republicans also reiterated their position Wednesday. They released a letter to Gov. Steve Beshear outlining a “roadmap to a responsible solution.” Click here to view the
Letter to Gov on March 16.pdf [160.83KB]

The Senate Republicans, led by Senate President David Williams, have called for cutting government spending now and next year, including cuts in 2012 to education, in order to avoid creating a hole in next year’s Medcaid budget.

Also on Wednesday’s program, Thompson also responded to a claim Williams made on _Pure Politics _Thursday — that House negotiators were influenced by Beshear, who is running for re-election. Click here to watch that interview segment.

“I think we were under the influence of a superior plan,” Thompson responded.

Thompson said Beshear was justified in his recent two-day trip to nine cities to urge citizens to call Republican Senators to urge them to support a budget fix that doesn’t cut education.

“The governor, I think, has the responsibility as the chief executive officer of Kentucky to inform the citizens of Kentucky about the consequences of the actions or inaction in Frankfort. And I think that’s what he’s been doing,” Thompson said.

And he said it could be up to lawmakers in the House to broker some kind of a solution.

“Certainly during this session there’s been a bit of a shadow with the governor’s race … and hopefully we can be an arbitrator in this situation,” he said. “What we need here is good policy and not good politics.”

Thompson also said he didn’t foresee much support in the House for a proposal, Senate Bill 2, that would require legislators to vote to justify their pay for a special session.

“I don’t see the House really taking that up,” Thompson said. “We wouldn’t have to be in this special session if in fact we could have reached an agreement in the regular session, which we think was doable.”

- Ryan Alessi


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