Stalled federal Medicaid funds equals less school funds

State lawmakers here resisted the temptation to “bet the come” on a six-month extension by Congress of enhanced federal Medicaid matching funds under the federal stimulus package when making Mississippi’s budget and produced an “honest” budget. So did Virginia’s legislature.

But an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 23 states that have completed their FY 2011 budgets relied on the rumor of a congressional extension of the enhanced Medicaid funds when crafting their budgets. Seven other states have not yet finished their budgets, while two more are working off two-year budgets that already have large budget gaps.

In all, the CBPP study found that at least 34 states will experiences additional budget cuts in public health, public education and other key service sectors unless Congress acts to extend the Medicaid funds. But growing concerns over the federal budget deficit and the national debt – against the backdrop of the midterm congressional elections – have killed a Senate bill that contained the extension at least through the November general elections.

That fact has led some Mississippi lawmakers – principally House Education Committee chairman Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson – to conclude that Congress will inevitably appropriate the Medicaid funds. But there is a growing realization that it’s highly unlikely that such an appropriation would come until after November.

Sid Salter