Governor Chides Lawmakers for Unfinished Business


House Gaming Committee Chairman Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, is uncommitted to a bill that would pay the way for a state-run lottery.

Adam Lynch

Gov. Haley Barbour took time off from nationwide GOP fundraising efforts to announce that he has no plan to call a special session to address the state's non-existent budget just yet. Barbour, who is not a legislator, told the Senate to reject a $5 billion budget plan it had reached with the House this week.

Barbour said he did not like a compromise in the plan that restricted the governor from making cuts to the state's Medicaid program. Another issue nagging at Barbour is the means to fund a $90 million Medicaid budget hole. The House and Senate worked out a deal that charged hospitals on a sliding scale based upon federal payout, initially taxing hospitals to the tune of $60 million. But Barbour wants hospitals to fully fill the $90 million budget hole, and argues that hospitals used to pay the tax prior to Hurricane Katrina.

Hospitals counter that the $90 million tax is not the same plan used prior to hurricane Katrina and would force hospitals to make staffing cuts to cover the revenue loss, and Democrats in the House argue that hospitals will have to transfer the tax to patients who don't use Medicaid.

Barbour has lost multiple attempts to levy the full $90 million tax against hospitals two years in a row, and says he is unwilling to fill the $90 million hole with revenue generated through other means, such as a tobacco tax increase. He says he will not approve a budget with a potential Medicaid hole and claims the Legislature is apparently incapable of filling budget holes arising from the Medicaid issue.

"We're not going to let the Medicaid shortfall get out of hand," Barbour told reporters at a press conference this morning. "The legislature hasn't dealt with the $90 million hospital tax. If they had restored that during the second, third or fourth year, I might have more confidence that large Medicaid deficit would be taken care of in the fall and in the following spring."

Barbour hinted that he could eventually call a special session and chided the Legislature for making such an action necessary in the first place. Legislators, he said, "should'a got finished in the regular session, if they didn't want me to call a special session."

Rep Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, said Barbour wasn't telling the whole story in that dismissal. He argues that Barbour has repeatedly ordered Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant—who is supposed to represent a branch of government completely independent of Barbour—to walk away from talks with House conferees.

"Barbour has the nerve to say we can't pass the budget, while he's pulling the strings from the behind the curtain telling Phil 'don't do this, do that' and Phil is just blindly following along, cutting his own conferees' and negotiators' throats," Moak said. "He comes out on Sunday night, locked arm-in-arm with House members, and says, 'Look, we got an agreement.' But then, next day Haley says, 'No, you don't,' and Phil says 'Oops, well, no we don't, I guess.'

"I mean, come on, Phil: Grow a pair," Moak said.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment