Thursday, February 16, 2006

While Republican State Leaders Bicker Amongst Each Other And Settle Scores, The Least Among Us Suffer.

In this article from today's DMN, Nursing homes face shortfalls as Dewhurst, Craddick disagree, we find out a lot of nasty stuff about the Republican leadership in Texas - Perry, Craddick, and Dewhurst. Not that they don't like each other, we've known that for quite some time. What is amazing is the lengths they will go to because of it.
A last-minute budgeting error in last year's regular legislative session caused payments to the homes, already among the lowest in the country, to dip even further. The payments are made under Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care for the poor.

Lawmakers had agreed on a plan for the homes to pay a per-patient tax that would qualify them for increased state and federal reimbursements ‚– more than enough to make up for the "Granny tax." All but about 30 of the state's 1,100 nursing homes would benefit.

But Gov. Rick Perry intervened on behalf of homes with affluent residents who are not on Medicaid, who would have lost money. His opposition caused the provision to be killed during the last weekend of the session – leaving nursing homes with a collective $200 million budget hole.

In August, the governor proposed to use $200 million of surplus funds to patch the hole, but that had to be ratified by the Legislative Budget Board, the group authorized to allocate money when the Legislature isn't meeting.
Gov. Perry intervenes on behalf of the wealthy few and in turn hurts the least among us, funny how that works. Now Lerch and Shorty can't agree on how to give the funding back because they're not done punishing people from the previous special sessions. See what else has not been funded and also watch as Rep. Eissler first can't figure why this is happening and then explain why in the next paragraph:
Because the budget board hasn't met, other large items that haven't been funded -– even though they have the backing of Mr. Perry -– include hospital emergency rooms and rural ambulance services; a four-year medical school in El Paso; and South Texas' first professional school, the Irma Rangel pharmacy school in Kingsville.

Glistening new buildings for the school sit empty because the state hasn't given it $5 million a year in operating funds.

Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, said the funding delays are puzzling. He noted that Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn estimated last week that the state has a surplus of $4.3 billion.

"Slow movement on money, especially when we've got a surplus?" Mr. Eissler said. "Why haven't the lieutenant governor and the speaker solved what would seem to be easy decisions? Maybe we don't know all of the parameters."

He said the two leaders may have stalled on some spending partly to gain leverage with certain lawmakers whose votes could help pass legislation to overhaul school finance and cut property taxes in a special session.
I'm sure they'll agree eventually, as long as the solution doesn't hurt the wealthy.


[UPDATE] The Money has been appropriated, via QR Buzz:
Press Release

Today, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick authorized the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to draw upon funds to pay for a number of critical needs in the state.

The expenditures include: $4.3 million in general revenue and $4.3 million in federal funds to increase the personal needs allowance for long-term care facility residents from $45 to $60; $75 million in general revenue and $115.7 million in federal funds for nursing facility rate increases; $27.6 million in general revenue for EMS/trauma care; and, $13.4 million to expand the capacity of Mental Health state hospitals.

"There is nothing more important to me than protecting the most vulnerable in our society. By funding these services, we are one step closer to delivering the highest quality care to those who really need it—the elderly and the frail," Lt. Gov. Dewhurst said.

"The services set to receive these funds could potentially affect every citizen of this state," Speaker Tom Craddick said. "As a result, it is imperative that these agencies expedite action and facilitate expanded capacity and improved quality care. I am pleased we are currently in a situation to approve these much needed resources, and I trust that by doing so we are helping our most vulnerable Texans."

Notification was made via letter to HHSC Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins. The authorization allows transfers to be made within HHSC services agencies to pay for the items listed by using Fiscal Year 2006 (FY06) appropriations, unexpended FY05 balances and, if necessary, funds slated for FY07.
See what a little media pressure can do.

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