Sen. David Blount and Rep. Andy Gipson agree it’s a matter of time before they join their colleagues in a special session to hash out funding for the state’s Medicaid program.
Blount, a Jackson Democrat, and Gipson, a Simpson County Republican, recapped the just-ended legislative session Monday at the lunch meeting of the Stennis Capitol Press Corps.
Lawmakers left Jackson last week with no funding for Medicaid after the fiscal year ends on June 30. Republicans and Democrats spent a lot of the session arguing over the program’s expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
Like most others in his party, Blount supports expanding the program.
“I think we need to admit that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land,” he said. “And Mississippians will be paying for the expansion whether we actually do it or not.”
Blount cited figures that the program would cost the state $555 million through 2025, but would get $12.1 billion back from the federal government. He added that Democrats would be willing to consider alternatives to outright expansion – such as legislation that would trigger expansion if uncompensated care payments were to disappear from hospitals that provide indigent care.
Gipson echoed Gov. Phil Bryant’s assertion that the state could not afford to add another few hundred thousand Mississippians to the Medicaid rolls, and questioned if the federal government would keep its promise to pay 90 percent of the expansion costs. “It’s odd that a group was willing to leave the Capitol without funding Medicaid,” Gipson said of Democrats’ twice killing the legislation to do so.
Gipson and Blount also took differing views of the handful of tax credits and incentives lawmakers passed. Gipson said incentives applied properly “are great economic development tools,” listing as an example recently passed legislation designed to spur construction of a retail shopping complex in Pearl.
Blount said many times lawmakers vote on incentives without knowing their exact financial impact.
“The Legislature is passing bills that will have a long-term impact (on the state’s budget) with no information on what they will cost,” he said.