Senate Rejects Governor’s Amendment for $50 Million Federal Funds

The Senate wrapped up their version of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget about 2:30am this morning.  NOT included in the budget is the $50 million federal grant for the “Medicaid Computer Upgrade.” This grant included laying the groundwork for the implementation of the Obamacare Insurance Exchange. The so-called “gang of 9″ worked to stop it and several other items in the budget.

The budget process in the Senate did not take the traditional path. Senate tradition is that what comes out of the Appropriations Committee represents 99.9% of what the Senate passes back to the House. Then the Senate and House convene conference committees to work out the differences between the versions passed by each body. It didn’t quite work that way this year.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed out budget bills that caused a number of problems with several senators. The committee version contained a line item that contained $50 million in federal grant funds that would include laying the groundwork for the Obamacare Insurance Exchange (Federal Grant Documents h/t Representative Ryan Silvey, House Budget Chair).  Grassroots activists from all across the state weighed in and the “political heat” was acknowledged during the discussion of the issue!

An educated grassroots can have an impact!

A group of senators who were not satisfied with the status quo represented by the Senate Appropriations Committee bill versions coalesced and presented the Appropriations Chair a list of items that had to be addressed in order to avoid an unheard of filibuster on the budget. This list included the $50 million federal grant.

After several days of discussion and negotiations, the Senate Appropriations Chair drafted new versions of the budget and placed them into Senate Substitutes. These substitutes represented significant changes to the bills including the elimination of the $50 million line item! 

As you might imagine, there were some ruffled feathers over this “new” process. Near the beginning of the budget discussion last night, one senator derisively called the senators who sought these changes the “gang of 9.” I’m pretty sure most if not all of the senators involved wear that name with some pride.

I don’t agree with all the changes the “gang of 9″  supported, but overall they were trying to set the tone for future budgets – significantly reduce the dependency on the use of one-time funds to balance the budget! It’s a good message.