NASHVILLE -- The U.S. House on Friday dealt a major setback to Tennessee lawmakers who hoped to obtain additional stimulus dollars through the extension of enhanced federal matching dollars for Medicaid.
Congressional Republicans and conservative Democrats demanded the provision, which would have provided Tennessee $341 million in additional funds, be removed from a larger bill because of its impact on the federal deficit.
The U.S. Senate is expected to consider the plan sometime in June.
In Tennessee, the General Assembly is still struggling to finish work on the state's $28 billion 2010-11 budget.
A plan offered by Senate Republicans, who have a 19-14 majority, and another one developed by House and Senate Democrats, independent House Speaker Kent Williams and some House Republicans have provisions that would be funded if Congress eventually approves the enhanced Medicaid matching funds.
"Watching the Congress work in Washington, it looks like we may not even get the FMAP (Medicaid) money," said Rep. Williams, who if it is approved hopes to fund a proposed $16.1 million fish hatchery in his district with it.
The proposal faces opposition from Republicans.
"It's arguing over money we may not even get," observed Rep. Williams, noting that he won't try to fund the hatchery with state dollars although he considers it an economic development project and "we always have money to do economic development."
If the increased Medicaid matching dollars are not approved, it would kill the plan by Democrats, Williams and some Republicans to fund the fish hatchery as well as $120 million for a new Safety Department communications system and driver's license issuance system and $100 million in one-time capital funds for community colleges.
For Senate Republicans, it would eliminate $54.1 million for the community colleges, the Department of Safety projects and $31.9 million for a West Tennessee megasite.
In an alert on its website, the National Conference of State Legislatures, which represents states, warned that "while the enhanced match issue is not dead, it is on life support. For now, NCSL recommends that state legislators contact their U.S. senators and urge them to re-insert the enhanced Medicaid/Title IV-E match extension into H.R. 4213."
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...