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Lawmakers Approve Budget

May 6, 2004
By: Missy Shelton
State Capital Bureau

Lawmakers finished their work on the state's budget late Thursday night, sending it to the governor's desk.

During negotiations on the budget, House Republicans lost their battle to reduce significantly the number of people eligible for Medicaid.

Missy Shelton reports.

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The budget plan knocks about 300 people off Medicaid instead of the 30 thousand or so who would've lost coverage under a House proposal.

With the deadline to pass the budget looming, negotiators from the House backed off their proposed Medicaid reductions.

House Republicans say too many people are eligible for Medicaid and the state can't afford to fund the massive program.

The Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee John Russell says reforms are needed but this wasn't the year to do make sweeping changes.

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Though lawmakers considered and rejected plans to take more people off Medicaid, the senate's top democrat Ken Jacob isn't pleased.

He says he's concerned about the more than 300 people who will lose Medicaid coverage.

He argues there's enough money to provide coverage for them...He accused the House Republicans of trying to save face by insisting that there be some cuts to Medicaid.

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Though House Republicans did not succeed in their effort to remove more than 30 thousand people from the Medicaid roles, many of them say they'll try again next year.

The chairman of the House Budget Committee Carl Bearden says lawmakers have to do something.

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On a near party line vote, the senate voted for the social services budget that will remove more than 300 people from Medicaid.

But before senators cast their vote, Democratic Senator Pat Dougherty told lawmakers what they were about to do was wrong.

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The budget now goes to the governor's desk.

It's more than 60 million dollars higher than the budget the governor recommended.

Lawmakers credit an improving economy with enabling them to increase funding for a number of state programs without the tax increases recommended by the governor.

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