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ANALYSIS: House Medicaid deal exposes gambits

ANALYSIS: House Medicaid deal exposes gambits

by Joe Arnold


Posted on March 21, 2011 at 8:51 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 21 at 9:04 PM

(WHAS11 Political Blog Analysis)  By an overwhelming bipartisan vote, 94-4, the Kentucky House on Monday passed a Medicaid budget compromise that would allow Governor Steve Beshear (D) to implement his proposal to shift money from next year's Medicaid budget to this year.

Yet, if Beshear's promised cost savings do not materialize, House Bill 1 would trigger cuts to state government that are sought by Senate President David Williams (R-Burkesville).

The bill now goes to the Senate, where Williams and the Republican majority are faced with several political choices as legislators and - in Williams' case - as a candidate for governor.

By excluding most areas of the education budget from the potential cuts, the House compromise sides with half of Beshear's stance.  Yet, the bill would require the governor to step away from his insistence that the Medicaid shortfall be fixed with Medicaid dollars.

The deal also exposes campaign gambits by both Beshear and Williams in that it centers on the question of whether Beshear can deliver on promised savings in time for the cuts to be unnecessary, a conclusion that will be reached some two months before the fall election.

Williams' negotiating role in the compromise has been in limbo as House leaders hammered out the details.  Even before the special session convened, House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) appeared to have weakened Williams' position by expressing disapproval of any education cuts.

In a video statement released Monday night, Hoover took an inferred swipe at Beshear and Williams.

"We just stood up and said, look we want to move above the fray of the politics of this and we believe that we need to find a solution to the issue, and so we went to work," Hoover said.

Though Williams' legislative agenda dominated the 2011session, Hoover emphasized the relevance of Republicans on the other end of the capitol.

"It is a good day," Hoover continued, "because it is clear that we are now a major part of the process.  The House Democrats recognize us even though we have 42 members and in the minority, they recognize that we can be contributors, that we can work together when we need to, and I hope and think that the Senate recognizes it now, that we're part of the process."

Yet, at what expense to Williams?

Hoover's comments: