The Capitol was abuzz today with news that Speaker Ralston has asked the Appropriations Committee to craft a budget that does not rely on the Governor’s proposed provider tax to fund Medicaid. 

 At last week’s budget presentation on her department’s budget, Commissioner of the Department of Community Health (DCH) Rhonda Medows explained that her department had very few budget options.  When Georgia accepted federal funds, it agreed not to cut eligibility or benefits.  Dr. Medows stated that, without additional funds, Georgia would either have to make deep cuts to provider fees or end the Medicaid program.

It is my understanding that Speaker Ralston’s charge to the Appropriations Committee was to find cuts throughout the entire budget, not just DCH’s budget.  Many of us expect that this may lead to even deeper cuts in K-12 education which, adjusted for inflation, will fall to its lowest funding level in a decade in FY 11.

Will this exercise in extracting even more savings from a skeletal budget lead legislators to conclude that they cannot merely cut themselves out of this fiscal situation?  Will they consider revenue measures such as the tobacco tax?  Will there be further cuts to education, child welfare,public health,  juvenile justice, and other programs that ensure that our children have a brighter future?

 We’ll be watching.

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