State budget deliberations continue

Last week the Senate continued to work on its version of the $5.8 billion State budget, adopting two major changes. Amendment 123, proposed by Senate Finance Committee Chair Hugh Leatherman, redirects $100 million in allowable transfers of 2010-11 surplus monies, originally slated to go to Medicaid, to help repay the $900 million in federal unemployment insurance (UI) loans. These dollars are expected to be certified by the Board of Economic Advisors on Thursday. While we would prefer the funds be directed to Medicaid, the State is in a precarious situation owing the federal government $900 million. As major employers in every community, the use of this money will help provide relief in future years.
The second change adopted by the Senate requires patients receiving non-generic mental health drugs through the Department of Mental Health and HIV/AIDS patients receiving non-generics through Medicaid to change to generic drugs. The proviso passed despite a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services stated to all Senators stating that the proviso would not save the State money. The proviso was amended slightly to consider rebates offered by manufacturers to the State for use of the brand name items.
Other issues generating substantial budget debate include abortion funding, and $80 million from the Department of Revenue resulting from increased tax collections from out of state entities, which the House has made known it would not include in the budget.

05-10-2011 05:02 (EDT)