Ky delegation splits down party lines on state aid bill; State still could face $83 mil. shortfall

08/10/2010 11:12 PM

Democratic U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth and Ben Chandler joined their colleagues from the majority Tuesday to support a $26.1 billion measure that includes money for teachers, as well as funding for state governments to help cover health costs for the poor and disabled through Medicaid.

The additional Medicaid funding will bring some relief to Kentucky but not the full amount that state lawmakers had assumed they would receive from Washington. So the state still could face at least an $83 million shortfall in the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2011.

Kentucky’s four Republican congressmen — Reps. Hal Rogers, Ed Whitfield, Geoff Davis and Brett Guthrie — opposed the bill, as the House largely voted along party lines, 247-161 with 25 not voting. (Check out the L.A. Times for more coverage of the legislation.)

In a speech over the weekend in Mayfield, Whitfield, of Hopkinsville, echoed other Republicans with his criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for calling the House back to approve additional spending.

Democrats say the cots of the $26.1 billion provisions will be more than covered by closing some tax loopholes that allow companies to divert money overseas.

Yarmuth issued a press release Tuesday afternoon touting his vote for the legislation, which he said will help the state keep 2,300 education jobs.

The bill also provides ┬ámore than $16 billion for states’ Medicaid programs. Kentucky’s share of that will be $155 million, according to Yarmuth’s office.

Kentucky was banking on $238 billion in extra aid for the Medicaid program, which is a joint federal-state health care safety net that covers medical bills for the poor and disabled.

The federal government typically paid 70 cents for every 30 cents the state chipped in. But at the start of the recession, Congress increased the federal government’s reimbursement amount to 80-20. But that was set to expire at the end of the year. Many states, including Kentucky, had hoped it would be extended through the end of their fiscal years (June 30, 2011).

While Congress came through with the extra money, the $155 million is still less than the $238 million the General Assembly had assumed in its 2011 budget that it would get from Washington, leaving an $83 million hole.

- Ryan Alessi

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