Governor set to present his proposed fiscal 2019 state budget | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Governor set to present his proposed fiscal 2019 state budget

Posted By on Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 8:15 AM

HUTCHINSON: Medicaid will once again be a focus at fiscal session.
  • HUTCHINSON: Medicaid will once again be a focus at fiscal session.

You can watch a livestream here. The governor presented a fiscal year 2019 budget with a net reduction in overall projected spending of $64 $100 million compared to the FY 2019 budget the governor projected a year ago. The $5.626 billion budget would represent a $172 million increase over spending in FY 2018, the current fiscal year. Benji Hardy was on hand and will have more shortly.

Governor Hutchinson
will address the legislative Joint Budget Committee this morning and propose his fiscal 2019 state budget. The new fiscal year begins on July 1.

The JBC will be holding pre-fiscal session budget hearings all week. The governor is slated to outline his proposed budget at 9 a.m.

I would expect the governor to again trumpet this year's ten-percent reduction in the Medicaid rolls, announced last week, which Hutchinson attributes to an improving economy as well as efforts to crack down on eligibility verification. Because of the reduction, as well as other structural changes, the Medicaid program will now require $47 million less than expected in state general revenue for fiscal 2019. Meanwhile, the governor has said that ongoing efforts to implement the state's Health Reform Task Force recommendations are on track to save more than $800 million in the traditional Medicaid program over five years.

The fiscal session is ostensibly exclusively about budget matters and approving the budget allocations for the following year. In practice, substantive policy matters have bled in. The last two fiscal sessions have been dominated by fights over re-authorizing the state's Medicaid expansion program. Because appropriations require 75-percent supermajority approval in both houses, rump groups of opponents have threatened to defund the entire Medicaid program unless the majority of Medicaid expansion supporters bent to their will and kicked 300,000 people off the program. The program, now known as Arkansas Works, will once again face tight margins to be re-authorized this year, particularly since two senate seats are currently vacant until special elections in May (vacancies are equivalent to a No — approval still requires 27 senators in the 35-seat senate).

Hutchinson has promised additional cost reductions to the program via proposed changes to the Medicaid expansion program. Because he has not yet received the federal approval required for these alterations, they will not be included in his proposed budget. These changes — including a reduction in eligibility that would remove at least 60,000 Arkansans from the program — could be implemented in the coming months, however. The Hutchinson administration has expressed confidence that federal approval is coming; once it does, state officials will need 60 days to implement the changes.

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