By David Arkin
The Medicaid crisis may not be as bad as officials once anticipated.
That’s thanks to the state’s oil and gas revenues.
Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, whose district includes Quay County, said after all, Medicaid won’t be the financial nightmare that officials once imagined it would be.
Moore said on Monday afternoon from Santa Fe that a budget package is being pieced together that doesn’t figure in major cuts to Medicaid.
The House is expected to vote on the $4.3 billion budget package today or Wednesday, Moore said. The budget package is a 4.5 percent increase over last year’s.
Moore said he was pleased with what lawmakers will vote on.
“I think it’s a really descent budget,” he said. “It’s a balanced budget. We won’t be spending more than we are taking in.”
Because of the state’s oil and gas revenues and the current state of the stock market, officials say they will have $43 million more than expected in the budget.
“Oil and gas revenues look high,” Moore said. “We think revenues will stay relatively high for another year or year and a half. The extra money will be used for a variety of purposes.”
Some of that “new money” will go to Medicaid. The governor has proposed a 3.5 percent reduction in payments to providers of medical services to help slow Medicaid spending increases next year.
However, Moore said lawmakers haven’t put that reduction in their budget package. Instead they are seeking a 6/10 of a percent reduction.
“We don’t need the reduction that the governor was seeking,” Moore said.
The House’s budget doesn’t call for a bed tax or a tax for premium insurance.
Moore said some things that health officials will do in the coming year to help curb Medicaid expenses include watching the Personal Care Option and making sure that those eligible for Medicaid recertify.
“We don’t plan to have to make the drastic cuts that we once anticipated,” Moore said. “Personal Care Options is growing faster than we expected. Officials will make sure that the people who are supposed to be on the program are on it. That should slow the growth down.”
Also part of the budget is a 2 percent raise for state employees.
“We’ve been able to come to an agreement on education,” Moore said. “We gave the governor a lot of what he wanted.”
Moore said the House’s budget uses about $47 million for education reform and puts the other money slated for reform in a public school reform reserves.
The budget, if approved by the House, will have a major hill to climb — the Senate.
Deal in the works
The Senate on Monday didn’t take action on a controversial vote that would give the governor money he wants for his administration and his residence.
On Saturday, the Senate delayed a vote on the vetoed $2.8 million for the Legislative Finance Committee.
On Friday, the House voted 66-0 to override the veto.
Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa whose district includes Curry County, said the House’s move was “quite a statement.”
“Last year we gave the governor a lot of new staff,” he said. “We’ve done enough. I think we’ve done enough of feeding the executive branch.”
Campos said he knows the governor wants more, but thinks lawmakers need to be fiscally responsible.
“I think he has a lot of vacancies on his staff that need to be filled before he starts asking for more positions,” he said.
If the Senate goes against the House’s vote, they would be giving Richardson $165,800 for his Department of Finance and Administration, and $231,400 for the governor’s residence.
Richardson had problems with $147,000 to the Legislative Finance Committee, which would have expanded its auditing staff.
But Campos thinks the governor has received plenty.
“We’ve been bending for quite a bit with this governor,” he said. “Sometimes you have to put your foot down and take a stand.”
Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, said it’s tough to have a legislative finance staff and not pay them.
Some lawmakers grumbled over the weekend that the Senate wasn’t backing up the House on the measure.
A bill for $11,028, also submitted by Campos, would fund video editing equipment for Portales High School.
Rep. Earlene Roberts, R-Lovington, has introduced a bill that would provide $570,000 to New Mexico State University to match federal money for “water conservation and natural resource restoration technical assistance pursuant to agreements” with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Drug court program
Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, is seeking $242,400 for the Ninth Judicial District Court to fund a drug court program.
l 8 a.m.-noon: American Indian Day: Celebration of Native American Youth, Capitol Rotunda
l 11:30 a.m.: On Stage Luncheon for Legislative Spouses Lensic, Performing Arts Center
l 11:45 a.m.: NAMI-New Mexico Legislators’ Luncheon,
Rio Chama Steakhouse
l 6: 30 p.m.: N.M. Mining Association Legislative Reception and Dinner, El Dorado Hotel
Jacketed Bill: A bill that is formally bound and ready for introduction to the Legislature. House jackets are yellow. Senate jackets are blue.
Quote of the Day
“What happens here is that you might get a recommendation from someone that sounds sincere, but sometimes they are doing it to kill a bill. When you’ve been here long enough, you learn that.” – Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa
For more information on legislative issues go online to www.state.nm.us.
David Arkin covers the Legislature for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He is a former Freedom reporter and editor. He can be reached at