Dentists are reminded to call The Greenbrier 800-624-6070 for room reservations
if they plan to attend the 110th Annual Session.  Alternate lodging in Lewisburg
includes: Hampton Inn 304-645-7300; Holiday Inn Express 304-645-5750; The
General Lewis 800-628-4454; and Fairfield Inn 800-228-2800.
Lawmakers pass budget: Medicaid escapes cuts
“Yesterday was the most intense debate I’ve witnessed among legislators
before passing a budget,” said Richard Stevens, Executive Director, who
attended meetings of the Legislature during its 13-day special session.
“Medicaid was one of the programs considered for cuts in efforts to reach
an agreement on the budget.  However, lawmakers dismissed the idea after
learning the loss of federal funding for the program would be almost three
times the state’s spending on Medicaid,” he said.  The federal match is
$2.85 for every $1.00 of state spending.
Lawmakers did not include any tax increase in the budget they passed last
evening (HB 101).  The bill draws $183 million from the rainy day reserve fund
and sweeps $62.4 million from special revenue accounts along with minor cuts
to make up the $270 million gap in the 2016-17 budget.  The Governor has
made budget cuts and taken funds from the rainy day fund over the past year
to shore-up the current year’s budget, which ends June 30, 2016.
The Senate passed the $4.08 billion budget along party lines 18-16.  The
House then passed the bill 60-37, and sent it to the Governor who may veto it
because the amount being taken from the rainy day fund.
Tax and revenue officials told lawmakers in a meeting I attended two days
earlier that taking one-time money to balance the $270 million budget will
result in a $380 million gap in the 2017-18 budget because no new revenues
would be included in the budget, according to Stevens.
Tax officials said Medicaid and PEIA were the greatest line-item expenses
in the budget.  Including the federal match, Medicaid totals $3.8 billion this
year, and is estimated to increase to $4.1 billion next year, according to
DHHR officials during budget presentations to lawmakers.
PEIA beneficiaries will pay a 12% increase in premiums beginning July 1,
2016, because state law requires state agencies to pay 80% of PEIA cost
while beneficiaries pay 20%.  The budget provides $43.5 million in new
funding for the employers’s share.
An increase in tobacco tax was rejected 55-44 by the House after narrowly
passing the Senate.  A proposed temporary increase of 1% in the consumer
sales tax was rejected by the Senate Finance Committee 10-6.  There are
no cuts in education, Health & Human Resources (Medicaid), State Police.
Promise scholarships are fully funded in the budget.
The Legislature recessed last night, with plans to return June 12.  This was
done to give lawmakers a chance to override the Governor’s veto of the budget
if he elects to do so.  An override requires two-thirds majority vote, which may
be difficult to attain, especially in the Senate.
To quote Yogi Berra:  “It isn’t over until it’s over.”