By the time you are reading this the One Hundred Fifth Legislative Session will have concluded sini die. We completed our work early this year and adjourned on the eighty sixth day. Most of the last few days of the session were spent trying to finish up a few pieces of legislation that had taken a little more time to complete. Several of our final hours were spent on the budget and the efforts to sustain or override the Governors line item vetoes of the budget. I did not vote to override any of the Governors vetoes. I am very aware of everyone who is having to take less tax dollars than they thought they were going to have or are having to live with the same amount of tax dollars as last year. We have been inundated from any corner of the state about the possibility of fewer tax dollars available to spend on state services. But the fact of the matter is that we are facing a one billion dollar deficit and we are just going to have to get along with less. I am still not comfortable with our budget because I am very fearful that our projected revenues will not be met going through the rest of 2017. It is better to make some smaller cuts in spending now rather than having to make much larger cuts in the future. Of course the alternative for several of my colleagues is to raise taxes.
The line-item veto of funding the Medicaid budget does not mean that providers will receive across-the-board rate reductions. The Medicaid aid budget is a block appropriation based forecasted need and Medicaid has the responsibility to manage the program within its appropriation and minimize adverse access-to-service issues for Medicaid eligible individuals and family. An example given by the Department of Health and Human Services is “Medicaid has identified that Nebraska is an outlier in reimbursing certain hospital and professional services for Medicaid/Medicare dual eligible member services up to the Medicare rate. 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.” The Department of Health and Human Services also stressed that this does not impact services not covered by Medicare like long-term care, nursing home care, and assisted-living care services. The Medicaid program will work with stakeholders to devise an appropriations reduction strategy that protects critical services like long-term care.