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Date: 19 May 2017 Contact: Julie Condon
For Immediate Release: Phone: 402-471-2628
This session the Legislature passed a $2.47 billion budget that funded four different programs over the next two years. MEDICAID/MEDICARE, Development Disability Aid Program, Division of Behavioral Health and the Division of Children & Family Services. Governor Ricketts line-item vetoed a total of $32.5 million of the spending across these programs. This amounts to about 2 ½%.
This past Wednesday, May 17th, 2017, we debated a number of veto overrides and in the end upheld the Governor’s veto on LB 327. My vote was included in those to uphold the vetoes. The Governor’s veto cut a small amount of funding to programs that generated a lot of interest from people contacting my office and lobbyists calling me off the floor. I want to address those concerns because a lot of what I heard was either misinformed, or out-right scaremongering falsehoods. These cuts will NOT affect provider rates.
Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care: Capping payments at the Medicaid rate, as 44 states do, would achieve the general savings necessary to meet the requirements of the Governor’s veto. This does not impact services not covered by Medicare like long-term care, nursing home care, and assisted-living services. The Medicaid program will work with stakeholders to devise an appropriations reduction strategy that protects critical services like long-term care.
Division of Developmental Disabilities: The line-item veto of funding in the DD aid budget will not mean providers will receive across-the-board rate reductions. DD has the responsibility to manage the program within its appropriation and minimize adverse access-to-service issues for DD eligible individuals and families. DD will work with stakeholders to devise an appropriations reduction strategy that protects critical services.
Division of Behavioral Health: The line-item veto of funding in the Behavioral Health aid budget will not mean providers will receive across-the-board rate reductions. The amount of funding included in the line-item veto represents 1% of total contracts funds to the Behavioral Health Regions.
Historically, behavioral health providers under contract with the Regions have received a 10% increase in rates over the last four years, including a substantial increase in two services through DHHS cost model work. Those rate increases are sustained in the current budget plan and Division of Behavioral Health will work with the Regions on the implementation plan to protect critical services.
Division of Children and Family Services: The line-item veto of funding in the Children & Family Services (CFS) budget will not mean providers or contractors will receive across-the-board rate reductions. CFS has identified efficiencies in how it administers drug testing contracts that will garner savings in excess of the amount included in the line-item veto.
I supported these small cuts in spending because without them the legislature was using accounting tricks and unrealistic revenue projections to balance the budget. Without these small cuts in spending, we would have to be called back into special session this fall to make drastic cuts to balance the budget because the gimmicks and rosy projections would have failed to do so.
No one likes to cut State programs people have grown to depend on. This was made very evident by the legions of lobbyists and special interest groups who all loudly opposed these small spending reductions. Watching this I couldn’t help but wonder – where were all the lobbyists and special interest groups screaming for property tax reform this session? Who represents the rancher or farmer who has to sell their place because they can’t raise a crop that will even pay the property tax bill? Who speaks for them? Where is all the passion and enthusiasm to protect ordinary citizens from crushing taxation? I think we need to be just as vigorous in our defense of those who have to pay for the State spending as we are in defense of those who consume it.