JACKSON -- Gov. Haley Babour often said the tax increase on hospitals he adamantly supported and passed through the Legislature last month was needed to provide a permanent solution to Medicaid funding woes.
There is debate whether the $60-million tax increase will solve the perennial problems in funding Medicaid. But there is no debate about whether Barbour's solution is permanent.
As of now, it is not.
The hospital tax increase will be in effect until July 1, 2012, under the bill the Legislature passed and the governor signed into law. It will be up to the 2012 Legislature -- the first session post Barbour -- to decide whether to continue the tax.
There were other staunch proponents of the tax, such as Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, and Senate Public Health Chair Hob Bryan, D-Amory, but Barbour was the primary advocate for the assessment that will be levied on non Medicare patients.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the tax increase after Barbour is gone from office.
JACKSON -- "Let the House vote" was the clarion call in 2004 during the special session Gov. Haley Barbour called to give businesses more protection from lawsuits.
Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, was criticized because his leadership team was bottling up legislation in committee because it knew that on the floor of the House it did not have the votes to block the lawsuit protection Barbour and the business community wanted. The House leadership wanted an agreement worked out with the governor and the Senate before the full House voted on the issue.
The shoe is on the other foot. Now it appears Barbour is preventing a vote on a state budget because he knows he does not have the votes to pass the Medicaid portion of the budget like he wants it. Barbour wants to increase the tax on hospitals by $90 million, but that was rejected by both chambers of the Legislature earlier this year. Earlier this year both chambers also passed language to prevent hospital cuts that many believe Barbour wants.
Since he does not have the votes for his positions to prevail, it appears he is insisting a deal be made -- closer to his liking -- before he will call a special session. He has said the Medicaid issue should be worked out by the leadership instead of the 174 members of the Legislature. That was essentially the same argument the House leadership was criticized for making in the 2004 lawsuit protection special session.
The only difference is in this case the shutdown of many state services will come about if a special session is not called and if a budget is not approved by Tuesday night.
By delaying the calling of the special session, the governor also is making it difficult for the full Legislature to debate and try to change any aspects of a deal. At this point, if a special session is called, there will be an urgency to get a budget passed by midnight Tuesday to keep state government from shutting down, and legislators who delay that by asking questions and trying to change bills -- as are their rights -- will run the risk of being criticized for delaying a budget agreement.