Special session: Priorities finally on the table

Now, it appears that the real – read: important – issues are finally on the table:

Reauthorizing MDES with no “strings,” such as reevaluating the state’s advertising practices;

Funding the Mississippi Division of Medicaid’s $90 million deficit.

Of course, they could have done both of these in the regular session. But:

Regarding MDES, it’s noteworthy that Gov. Barbour has included increasing the payment for those who are jobless. That’s an important consideration.

At $210 a week, Mississippi’s jobless compensation is the lowest in the nation. It has been at the same level for nearly six years. With gasoline creeping toward $4 a gallon, food costs skyrocketing, homes being foreclosed and the economy teetering on recession, that’s a real issue for real Mississippians facing some real difficulties.

Regarding funding Medicaid, which had included a proposal by Gov. Barbour for a new per-bed tax – or “assessment,” as he called it – for hospitals, it’s noteworthy that the governor seems to have negotiated the issue with its most hostile opponent, the Mississippi Hospital Association.

It could pave the way at least for a short-term funding plan.

Long term, funding Medicaid may yet still require additional revenue, such as increasing the state’s woefully low tobacco tax. That should be done anyway.

Clarion Ledger