Lawmakers once again will go into legislative overtime to address a budget

03/09/2011 04:51 PM

(WITH VIDEO) FRANKFORT — As the curtain fell on the 30-day 2011 General Assembly on Wednesday, legislative leaders faced the task of somehow agreeing on how to address a $100 million Medicaid shortfall before a special session on Monday.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear announced that he was calling lawmakers back to Frankfort for a five-day session slated to begin Monday. Their objective will be to fix the the Medicaid budget, which was left $100 million short after Congress approved less money last year than the General Assembly was banking on.

Beshear also has asked lawmakers them to take up his other legislative priority: raising the student dropout age from 16 to 18.

During his announcement of the special session, Beshear delivered a rebuke of Senate President David Williams, criticizing him for taking a “my-way-or-the-highway” approach.

Beshear has said failure to shift money into the current FY 2011 budget would mean cuts of up to 30% in the reimbursement that Medicaid sends to doctors and hospitals.

Those notices will go out April 1 unless action is taken, he said. And such cutbacks could result in closing of rural hospitals and medical centers that serve many of the poor and disabled Kentuckians who rely on Medicaid to cover their health costs.

Beshear had proposed moving $166 million from the 2012 budget to this year’s budget to cover the gap and then make up the deficit next year through efficiencies and by signing new contracts with outside managed care providers to deliver certain services.

But Williams, who is also a Republican candidate for governor, has been reluctant to move the money because he said the Beshear administration hasn’t demonstrated that it can make the efficiencies.

It would be a gamble that could leave the state in worse financial shape next year, Williams warned. Instead, Williams and the Senate Republicans have proposed cutting state agencies now and returning that money next year if Beshear’s administration succeeds in the promised savings.

The Senate Republicans and House Democrats have traded counter-proposals over the last few days but to no avail.

Williams said on the Senate floor Wednesday that lawmakers need to come to an agreement before going into the special session and, as part of that, he said he wants assurance from the governor that Beshear won’t veto any part of the eventual Medicaid fix.

Earlier in the week, he outlined the Senate’s approach in one of the counter-proposals:

- Compiled by Ryan Alessi with reporting from Frankfort by Don Weber.

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