Medicaid Maginot

Governor Barbour has pledged not to call the Legislature back into special session to adopt the budget until the House and Senate leadership have agreed on a Medicaid plan (acceptable to the governor) which permanently resolves the recurring $90 million deficit. In the absence of such an agreement, unless the governor changes his mind, every state agency (not just Medicaid) will begin FY 2010 without a budget.

You may (and many do) vehemently quarrel with the governor’s policy objectives and political goals in holding the Senate and House leadership’s feet to the fire over the Medicaid issue. Unquestionably, however, he is within his constitutional authority to call a special session (by which to compel adoption of a budget which he approves) only on his own terms. This 2009 reality is as different from 2008 as night is to day.

Governor Barbour cannot adopt a state budget; only the Legislature can do that. As things exist this year, however, the Legislature will not be positioned to even consider adoption of a budget unless it is one with which the governor agrees. Depending upon your own political bent, you may consider that “right” or “wrong,” but the reality of the situation cannot reasonably be denied.

As I write this (Sunday evening), there is real hope that House and Senate leaders have compromised on a budget plan (on Medicaid and everything else), and that adoption of the budget will come quickly this week, and well before the July 1 deadline. But, a “deal” will not exist just because Speaker McCoy, Lt. Gov. Bryant, or Gov. Barbour alone say so. All three must sign on publicly to any budget deal, and all three must forcefully advocate its passage, before the governor will even call the Legislature back to the Capitol.

Right, wrong, or indifferent, that is the reality of 2009.

Greg Snowden Blog
Clarion Ledger