Funding MAEP and Medicaid drives politics in 2009 session

‘Rainy day fund’ raiders?
After constitutionally mandated budget cuts made necessary by the state’s revenue shortfalls, House leaders now want to use most of the increase in tobacco taxes to make up the 3.50 percent cuts made to the Mississippi Adequate Education program appropriations – the basic funding mechanism for the state’s public schools.

Beyond that, some of those same lawmakers want to raid the state’s $368 million “rainy day fund” to make up the rest of the MAEP cuts – and they want to raid it deeper than Barbour and fellow Republican State Treasurer Tate Reeves say is fiscally prudent.

And what of funding the $90 million and growing Medicaid shortfall they didn’t fund last year?

Lawmakers have three choices: 1) Use the cigarette tax hike money and “rainy day fund” proceeds to hold the schools harmless from MAEP cuts; 2) Implement the “hospital tax” that hospitals were paying for years before last year’s political standoff developed over “taxing the sick” – something lawmakers and hospitals agreed willingly to do years ago; or, 3) Hope for another “miracle” like the “miscalculation” or paying for Medicaid with hurricane relief money or any of the other alternative sources they’ve used before.

But the $90 million shortfall’s still there.

Sid Salter
Clarion Ledger