Beshear vetoes portions of Medicaid budget bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear used his
veto power Friday to strike portions of a Medicaid budget bill that
called for spending cuts to most state government services,
including education and public protection.
"The Senate's draconian cuts to basic priorities are neither
necessary nor advisable," Beshear told reporters in a Capitol news
conference late Friday afternoon.
"I will not make drastic cuts to classroom teaching, to our
veterans programs, to public safety, to our social workers, to
higher education and numerous other services when there is no need
to do so," he said.
Beshear moved quickly to issue the line-item vetoes, announcing
them less than a day after lawmakers gave final approval to
legislation intended to shore up a Medicaid program that has been
overburdened financially by new recipients in an economic downturn.
The Republican-controlled Senate passed the Medicaid proposal
along party lines on Thursday. The Democratic-controlled House
accepted the Senate plan, but only after getting an assurance from
Beshear that he would strike the "unnecessary" cuts that members
found objectionable.
Beshear's lengthy veto message struck more than 150 pages of the
bill, including provisions that would stop lawmakers from being
paid during a legislative recess and that would bar furloughs of
state employees.
The governor criticized Senate Republicans, claiming they had
prolonged what should have been a quick process of balancing the
Medicaid budget.
"This special session was totally unnecessary," he said. "It
wasted taxpayer money. It needlessly raised anxiety levels for
everyone from health care workers to health care recipients to
teachers to police officers. And it diverted energy and attention
in a time when we are trying to focus our efforts on creating jobs,
improving our schools and taking care of our families."
Senate President David Williams, a proponent of spending cuts,
called the governor's action "an outrage" and suggested House
lawmakers must feel as if they had "made a deal with the devil"
after seeing the depth of the line-item vetoes.
"This governor has vetoed every accountability standard,"
Williams told reporters.
Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo had no complaints late
Friday, opting instead to praise Beshear in a statement released
through his press office.
"The governor did what he said he would do when it comes to
upholding our shared priorities," Stumbo said. "I never doubted
that, nor did 80 percent of the entire General Assembly."
The Medicaid issue had become politically charged in a
gubernatorial election year. Beshear is seeking re-election, though
he's unopposed in the May 17 Democratic primary. Republican Senate
President David Williams is one of three candidates seeking the GOP
nomination to run against Beshear.
Beshear had asked lawmakers for what appeared to be a simple
Medicaid fix: Transferring $166.5 from next year's budget to shore
up the program this year. Then, next year's $425 million budget gap
would be plugged using privatization.
The Senate proposal would have required cuts to most government
agencies of 0.35 percent in the current fiscal year and 1.74
percent next fiscal year.
The House called those cuts "unacceptable" and contrived a
plan to approve the legislation with Beshear's promise to invoke
line-item vetoes to strip them from the bill.
What was left after Beshear had finished marking it up was
similar to his original proposal.
The House adjourned from the special session Thursday night. The
Senate took a recess until April 6 with the intention of returning
to try to override the vetoes. That appears to be a futile move
because both the Senate and House would have to agree to vetoes,
and Stumbo said his members have no such intention.

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

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