Governor Blunt has proposed a $23 billion budget for the coming year, one-and-a-half billion dollars more than the current budget. The top Democrat in the House isn’t impressed. House Minority Leader Paul LeVota (D-Independence) says it isn’t money well spent.
"He’s spending extra money, but it’s money that he’s saved over the last three years," says LeVota, "He’s spending it this year on programs that we need money to sustain."
LeVota uses the word "sustain" often in an interview with the Missourinet. He claims his concern is that Blunt and Republican legislative leaders will load the budget with new programs, new programs that state government will find difficult to fund in the future. The governor has proposed hefty increases to MO HealthNet, the replacement for Medicaid and proposes considerable spending to begin Insure Missouri, a program he promotes as a way for Missourians to afford their own health insurance. The governor’s office claims Insure Missouri will use $350 million already being spent in the health care system, but it acknowledges the plan could use as much as $46.8 million of general revenue.
House Democrats, according to LeVota, simply want the governor to restore the Medicaid cuts he approved in 2005. Those cuts eliminated 90,000 Missourians from Medicaid. Democrats balloon that number to 180,000 in another example of disputed math at the Capitol. LeVota justifies the number by saying that it adds children who could have become eligible for Medicaid the last three years and those who lost at least partial coverage.
Democrats also contend that the cuts have proven unwise fiscally. They claim the state has passed up more than $300 million in federal matching Medicaid funds each of the past three years because of the cust, a total close to $1 billion. LeVota says the Department of Social Services has estimated it would cost $255 million to restore the 2005 Medicaid cuts. LeVota says that is where the governor should start if he wants to increase the state budget.