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Medicaid budget battle continues in Frankfort

Frankfort, Ky. (AP) - Lawmakers were still in search of a
compromise Tuesday on competing proposals for balancing the state's Medicaid budget, with House and Senate negotiators refusing to budge in what has devolved into acrimonious debate.

"We can argue. They can argue," House Speaker Greg Stumbo said at the close of the last round of talks. "The question is whether
or not you want to find some middle ground. We want to find middle
ground."

Republican Senate President David Williams has proposed
adjourning the legislative session and returning in special session
in August to shore up Medicaid's finances. House lawmakers brushed aside that proposal, urging Senate negotiators to reach an
agreement in the two days remaining in the legislative session.

House and Senate lawmakers have been meeting since Monday to try to reach an accord on two competing proposals for the Medicaid
program that provides health services to more than 800,000 needy
Kentuckians.

The goal is to meld two vastly different proposals to fill a
$166.5 million budget gap. The House proposal calls for shifting
the money from next year's appropriations to be used now, a
proposal initiated by Gov. Steve Beshear. The Senate wants to make
cuts to all government programs to erase the Medicaid deficit.

The Senate originally called for cuts of 2.26 percent across-the-board, but modified that stand late Monday, asking instead for 1.8 percent cuts.

The proposed cuts have been key sticking points in the impasse.
So far, Senate Republicans have been unwilling to relent and House
Democrats have been unwilling to accept even the smaller cuts.

The upcoming governor's race has complicated negotiations.
Beshear and Senate President David Williams, who developed the plan for cuts, could face each other in this fall's gubernatorial
election. Beshear is running unopposed for the Democratic
nomination. Williams is one of three Republicans seeking the GOP
nomination.

Beshear's proposal would not only shift funding from next fiscal
year's budget to close this year's Medicaid budget gap, but would
also balance next year's budget with some $425 million in cost
savings in the Medicaid program by entering into private contracts
with managed-care organizations. Williams said Beshear's plan won't
work and that across-the-board cuts will be necessary.
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The legislation is House Bill 305.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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