Legislature Adjourns Special Session

By Jon Kalahar - email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Governor Haley Barbour says his new plan to fund a $90 million Medicaid shortfall doesn't need approval by the state legislature.

But that didn't keep some house members from trying to one up the Governor by passing a cigarette tax to fund the state health care program.

With the swing of his gavel, Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant brought the special session to an end in the Senate, and for all intents and purposes in the House as well. Governor Haley Barbour says his new plan to fund Medicaid doesn't need legislative approval and Bryant wasn't going to bring up another bill.

"It is time to let us see what happens. We need to go home, we have been here three months," said Bryant.

The special session has cost taxpayers more than half a million dollars.

The House committee on Medicaid tried one more time to pass a bill to fund a $90 million Medicaid shortfall using a cigarette tax and a hospital tax. But the bill was never voted on because of the Senate's adjournment.

"We're very sad the Governor and Senate chose to leave town at a time when we know more about Medicaid than we've ever known," said Speaker of the House Billy McCoy.

Governor Barbour calls it a positive outcome because $375 million in cuts will be avoided.

"We don't have to reduce the size of our system, or our system of Medicaid rather, we will simply change how we would collect the tax," said Barbour.

House members are split on the plan, depending on their political affiliation.

"Your hospital could be one of the hospitals that takes a cut on that $370 million. There's no guarantee," said Rep. Robert Johnson, (D) Natchez.

"We have overwhelming support for a bed assessment, they've said, 'No.' The Governor's come out with another great plan and once again the liberal House leadership has said, 'No,'" said Rep. Brian Aldridge, (R) Tupelo.

The Medicaid talk may not stop here. Opponents of the governor's new plan are looking at possibly taking him to court, once again, to find out if he can indeed issue the new plan without the legislature's approval.