Mayfield: Session yields Medicaid compromise, setting the stage for budget recovery
On Monday, the House approved House Bill 1, which, under that version, would require the governor to achieve savings through expanding Medicaid managed care across the commonwealth to cover a projected hole in the fiscal year 2012 budget. If the governor did not achieve those savings by Aug. 15, we would have required him to implement budget cuts to take effect on Oct. 1. Education, including K-12; public universities; and veterans’ affairs would have been exempt from any potential budget cuts under the House plan.
The Senate version of House Bill 1, with which the House chose to concur on Thursday night, placed immediate budget cuts in the current fiscal year and fiscal year 2012. The main difference in the Senate version was a plan to cut secondary and postsecondary education by roughly $23 million, respectively, unless the governor achieved more than two-thirds of the $133 million in expected savings through expanded managed care. On Friday, the governor line-item vetoed all spending cuts to state government.
We decided to concur with the Senate version of House Bill 1 because we found ourselves at a crossroads. Did we want to risk sending the bill to a conference committee and not reaching an agreement before April 1, in which case a 35 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursements would have taken effect, or did we want to address the situation now and save you, the taxpayer, the $63,000 per day it would have cost to continue in session?
We stood firm on our call to leave education harmless, and we were pleased that the Senate agreed with us that other areas — like teachers’ retirement and vocational rehab — should be exempt from budget cuts. While this bill is not perfect, we needed to address the shortfall in Kentucky’s Medicaid budget now to prevent the potentially devastating financial impact that a 35 percent cut in reimbursements would have on our rural hospitals and health care providers.
Additionally, throughout the week, ceremonies were held in the state Capitol to mark the signing of numerous pieces of legislation, most of which will officially become law on June 8. Two veteran-related bills that received the Governor’s signature are House Bill 200 and House Concurrent Resolution 138. The first requires the state to create a plaque honoring Kentucky’s Medal of Honor recipients, which will be installed in the Capitol building and properly maintained. Additionally, all Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and totally disabled veterans will be provided admission to one of Kentucky’s state veterans’ nursing homes at no cost.
House Concurrent Resolution 138 will urge Congress to direct more resources and attention to providing treatment to military personnel and veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related stress disorders. This resolution helps carry forth the mission of legislation approved in the 2010 Regular Session that requires combat veterans who are arrested, to be identified as a veteran and connected with available assistance.
Another bill set to become law addresses the current rash of copper thefts that affects many of our rural communities. Pipes, wires, cables, gutters, and flashing are being torn from buildings, and roof-top air-conditioning units are being stripped of their copper coils. House Bill 242 seeks to end this practice by requiring an individual to submit signed proof of ownership or authorization to sell to a recycler any metal that has been smelted, burned, or melted.
The governor has also signed legislation that will better protect our senior citizens from abuse and exploitation. Under House Bill 164, state guardians will be permitted to do business on behalf of a ward of another state only if that state has the uniform code, allowing financial matters to be handled in a more timely and prudent manner.
House Bill 310 amends the state’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program and has also received the governor’s signature. This measure extends the window of time signature TIF projects approved prior to Jan. 1, 2008, have to activate, increasing that time from five years to 10. The TIF program will also be expanded to include mixed-use development projects located in a research park owned by a public university.
If you have any questions about our work in this special session, I urge you to contact me. By hearing your thoughts and opinions, I am better able to serve our district. I can be reached through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.
Information on each bill is available through the Bill Status Line at 1-866-840-2835. If you have Internet access, you may e-mail me at email@example.com or keep track of legislation through the Kentucky Legislature’s Home Page at http://www.lrc.ky.gov.