Gov wants emergency $40M


POSTED: Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gov. Linda Lingle is asking the Legislature for $40 million in emergency funds to help the Department of Human Services cover its April payment to the state's Medicaid providers.

In a letter to House Speaker Calvin Say, dated March 18, Lingle asks the Legislature to advance the money from the department's budget for the next fiscal year.

Say, who along with other Democratic leaders has criticized Lingle's budgeting strategy this year as shifting debt to the next administration, called the emergency funding request more of the same.

He said the request does not include any proposal to make up the $40 million, which would force the Legislature to make further cuts or increase taxes to find more money.

“;I'm not too happy,”; Say (D, St. Louis Height-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) told the Star-Bulletin yesterday. “;What other proposal does she have to replace this ($40 million)? She's dumping it off again.”;

Lawmakers already were chasing a budget deficit of $1.28 billion in the fiscal biennium, after the most recent forecast by the state Council on Revenues.

The emergency request says the state's Medicaid program projects a $342 million budget shortfall this fiscal year. The $40 million is needed to cover the state's April payment to providers and will draw down $80 million in federal matching funds.

As outlined by Lingle and Human Services Director Lillian Koller last week before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the state expects it will be able to delay the May and June payments until after the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

The state made similar deferments last year with no adverse effect to delivery of Medicaid services, Koller said.

“;All (Lingle) is doing is deferring, and that's not being responsible,”; Say said.

The speaker said he expects the Legislature to take a closer look at a possible hike in the general excise tax to help cover the increasing deficit.

House lawmakers have passed their version of the budget with no increase in the GET.

The budget now is in the Senate, where Ways and Means Chairwoman Donna Mercado Kim has said she is likely to explore tax hikes on oil, cigarettes and liquor, but probably not the GET.

“;We probably will have to address that,”; Say said of a GET hike. “;That's why the options are so important and that (Kim) keeps everything alive.”;

The Legislature also could reconsider the decision to not scoop the hotel room tax money from counties, Say said.