Saturday, May 26, 2001

State Medicaid shortfall looms

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Lawmakers must find the money to cover $145 million in shortfalls projected over the next two years in the Medicaid program for the poor, Budget Director Thomas Johnson told a House-Senate committee trying to resolve the $45 billion state budget.

        Mr. Johnson delivered the news to the conference committee as it began hearings on the budget bill Friday. The six-member panel must clear up differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill and send it to Gov. Bob Taft for his consider ation. The committee expects to wrap its work up early next week.

        The Medicaid shortfall was projected for the two years the new budget will cover, beginning July 1. Mr. Johnson, speaking on Mr. Taft's behalf, said the shortfall should be covered by dipping into the state's $1 billion budget surplus, or rainy-day fund. The budget currently would raid that fund for $150 million.

        In addition, the state expects revenues to be $800 million less than projected when Mr. Taft introduced the spending plan in January.

        With the Supreme Court or dering the state to change the way it funds public schools, the House and Senate have been cutting Mr. Taft's proposals for funds in other areas.

        The shortfall is projected for Medicaid, children's insurance and disability and adoption-assistance programs that primarily are funded by federal money. The total shortfall is expected to be $348 million in state-federal money. That is because of increases in Medicaid cases that are expected to total 83,000 people over the two years.

        Mr. Johnson also pleaded Mr. Taft's case for more funding in development and electronic government programs.


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