Legislature again feeding one-time money ‘addiction’

The current legislative budget standoff has become like the plot of a soap opera that stays on television for three decades – you keep watching the same people do and say the same things over and over again.

In the House, there’s the same penchant to throw non-recurring revenue at recurring state expenses that’s been evident for the last decade. The late Gov. Kirk Fordice was conducting the same arguments with lawmakers that have consumed current Gov. Haley Barbour’s relationship with the House during his two terms.

Rather than exact the $90 million hospital assessment backed by Barbour to help fund Medicaid, House leaders consistently called that method a “tax on the sick” until economic times got hard this year. Then, the House leadership retreated to a second line – it’s OK to tax the sick at around $60 million, so long as the state kicks back some money to the state’s hospitals who are angry about having to pay the assessments.

That despite the fact that some of the hospitals squealing the loudest about “hospital taxes” are the ones that perform little or no Medicaid care and who are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars of cash in retained earnings or squirreled away in hospital-controlled foundations.