The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Editorial, 1/27/9

It seems like a million years ago – even thought it was only last summer – when the Legislature was in special session debating how to fund a $90 million shortfall in Medicaid.

Since that special session, an economic slump that some pessimistically say may be historic in nature has occurred.

Remember that back in that summertime special session, the House leadership wanted to use a cigarette tax increase to fund at least a portion of the Medicaid deficit. Gov. Haley Barbour and the Senate leadership – Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and others – wanted to fund the shortfall with a tax on hospitals.

Luckily, for all involved, the deficit was funded for the current fiscal year through a refund from the federal government because of what was essentially an accounting error. Medicaid is a federal-state health care program and errors were made in the amount of match money the state got from the feds, resulting in almost $90 million in additional funds for Mississippi.

But sometime during the current legislative session, look for that debate to heat up again. Barbour funded the shortfall for the current year through the unexpected federal funds – yes, one-time money. But the governor and the Legislature still must fund the deficit for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.