2011 General Assembly concludes; resumes in special session Monday

As the 2011 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly comes to a close today, it does so with an abrupt ending. As noted in last week’s Frankfort Inside Out, the legislature has been unable to reach an agreement on HB 305 – a bill designed to address the shortfall in this year’s Medicaid budget. A proposal, offered by Gov. Steve Beshear and passed with bipartisan support in the House, would balance this fiscal year’s budget by shifting $166.5 million from next fiscal year’s budget which begins on July 1. The Governor argues that expanding managed care beyond the current 17-county area around Louisville can help address the budget cap created by shifting funds from the next fiscal year. The Senate argued that the suggested savings can’t actually be accomplished and instead offered a proposal that would make cuts across most areas of state government – including primary and postsecondary education.

After negotiations between the House and Senate reached a stalemate yesterday, the House adjourned until March 21 for the scheduled veto recess, though leadership planned to continue negotiations with Senate leadership during that time. However, Senate leaders decided to convene again at 10 a.m. this morning – effectively ending the 2011 session in an effort to save the cost of the remaining legislative days.

During a press conferenceWednesday afternoon, Beshear expressed his strong disagreement with the Senate proposal and impasse. The Governor announced that he will call the General Assembly back to Frankfort for a special session to begin on Monday, March 14, in an attempt to force Senate leaders to adopt his proposal to address the Medicaid shortfall. Without filling the budget shortfall, he warned of the potential for up to 30 percent cuts to Medicaid providers beginning April 1, 2011. Beshear also announced he will limit the session to prevent any additional budget cuts to state government – effectively preventing the Senate budget proposal from being considered. He also added legislation to raise the high school drop-out age, a measure supported by the Kentucky Chamber that passed the House this session but stalled in the Senate.

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