NASHVILLE - Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said today that if he had his way, Congress not approve a six-month extension of increased federal Medicaid matching dollars for states.
"There is a possibility that Tennessee will get the federal money if the Democrat controlled Congress votes to appropriate it," Lt. Gov. Ramsey, the Senate speaker, said via e-mail. "I hope they don't. We have been responsible in Tennessee and, unlike other states, we don't need it to balance our budget."
The estimated $23 billion to $25 billion measure would bring about $341 million to Tennessee if approved. Lt. Gov. Ramsey, a gubernatorial candidate who has talked about giving Washington "the boot" when necessary, was criticized over the weekend by Democrats for a Senate Republican budget plan that anticipated using some of the funding.
The lieutenant governor said that "should the money be appropriated, the Senate will set priorities. This includes funding the (Tennessee Highway Patrol communications) towers with cash. The governor had proposed raising driver's license fees, borrowing money to build the towers, then pay the bonds with the increased fees."
He lashed out at the Democratic Bredesen administration, saying, "these towers have been needed for years. Suddenly they have become a priority for the administration."
U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., a Ramsey gubernatorial rival, has said he plans to vote against the extension of more generous federal match rates for states' Medicaid spending. He said that because Democrats are folding it into a larger spending bill, the legislation "will take us further down the road to bankruptcy as a nation."
Lt. Gov. Ramsey said, "I hope Zach does vote against borrowing this money and sending it to the states. Apparently, now that he is running for governor, he is voting against spending after 16 years of never seeing a spending bill he didn't like."