Gov. Haley Barbour is a gifted politician, but he is running a huge risk by refusing to compromise with Democrats over how to pay for medical care for the state’s low-income residents.
The Legislature, in a special session that has now been adjourned until Aug. 4, has been deadlocked over where to find an extra $90 million for the state’s Medicaid budget for the current fiscal year. Barbour wants lawmakers to change taxes on hospitals to come up with the extra money needed to fill out Medicaid’s budget. While the Republican-led Senate supports that idea, House Democrats want any extra Medicaid funding to include an increase in the state’s cigarette taxes, which are among the lowest in the nation.
It’s pretty obvious that both Barbour and the Democrats, led by House Speaker Billy McCoy, have dug in their heels. Each group has chosen to play a game of chicken, to see who will blink first.