The state budget fracas — a solution | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The state budget fracas — a solution

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 7:04 AM

A NEW BUDGET IDEA: Sen. Michael Lamoureux
  • A NEW BUDGET IDEA: Sen. Michael Lamoureux
I got some Twitter notes last night from Sen. Michael Lamoureux of Russellville on an idea emerging in the state Senate to supplant the bullet-riddled notion of Republican Rep. John Burris to take an arbitrary bite of 3 percent out of a raft of state agencies and use one-time money for Medicaid as a show of, well, something.

Lamoureux is floating the idea of devoting up to $40 million of expected accumulating reserves for a Medicaid trust fund against expected rising costs in that program, the majority of which is paid by 3-1 matches from the federal government.

That's a better idea than an arbitrary round of budget cuts, first off. But I'm reluctant to order up a tickertape parade just yet. Why?

1) It's an abbreviated version of the balanced budget amendment idea much beloved of Republicans. It will place handcuffs on spending that money, even in the event of unseen disaster, special need or border war with Texas. It's not quite the same, I know. And there's this: The first victim of such discipline would be legislators' General Improvement Fund projects, normally taken from the surplus that accrues from unspent fund balances and interest on state money. As we already know, efforts to make that process less of a special interest pork barrel for individual legislators has been defeated to a great degree by their wiliness and their influence on state agencies dispensing money allotted from the fund. So I'd shed no tears about that. (Unless it was my rodeo arena that needed the renovation money.)

2) This still amounts to proposing to finance a significant piece of Medicaid — next year, if not this year — with one-time money. That's better than no money. But it's not a continuing solution. Medicaid increases aren't likely to be a one-time thing.

I might be more amenable if all the Republicans talking about cutting budgets didn't seem to be hellbent to give a greedy and underserving bunch — truckers — a $4 million tax cut they haven't earned through a promised diesel tax increase that isn't going to happen. They, and even a few Democrats, are resisting legislation to repeal this giveaway before it takes effect. His response:

The truck tax issue is not yet resolved. Have faith.

Could be this is a tradeoff for the Medicaid trust fund?

NOTED: The Baxter Bulletin in Mountain Home editorializes about the Washington-style politics brought to Arkansas by Rep. John Burris. What's next from those Republican hills? Criticism of a state legislator who gets taxpayer money to support religious instruction in his pre-school?

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