Moving toward the funnel

We’ve finished a full and busy week five of the session. Many bills are moving through the committees as we keep an eye on the Feb. 18 funnel date.

Budget

The Senate Democrats have released their budget targets, spending $70 million more than the state collects in on-going revenue.

They did not release their plans on Medicaid savings. It is extremely difficult for them to maintain the level of spending they have proposed without including savings resulting from the Governor’s managed care plan. It is important to keep this in mind as the rhetoric surrounding this change heats up.

The Senate Democrats have also not taken up House File 2092, the Federal Tax Coupling bill that the House passed 2 weeks ago. If this bill is not passed and signed by the governor, our farmers and small businesses will be hit with an $86 million tax hike.

As part of their budget plan, Senate Democrats are proposing a 4 percent increase in Supplemental State Aid for schools but the money necessary to fund that 4 percent increase is not included in their budget targets. To fund 4 percent they need to provide an additional $65.8 million for education within the Standings Bill. But only $2.9 million more is provided in their Standings. That means either they plan to cut another area included in the Standings Bill – such as property tax credits – or they are willfully underfunding their 4 percent SSA increase. This would instead force property taxpayers to pay more to make up for the lack of funding from the General Fund. This scenario happened repeatedly during the Culver administration when budgets went wildly out of control.

Rest assured that the House Republicans will adhere to our spending principles as we have over the past five years. Those principles are: We will spend less than the state collects; We will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs; We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs; We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.

Medicaid managed care transition

The transition plans are rapidly advancing as the March 1 implementation date nears. The Department of Human Services has reported that over 96 percent of the current Medicaid providers have signed up with all three managed care organizations.

There have been attempts in the Senate to terminate the state’s transition to managed care, these attempts are short-sighted and take us backwards, rather than moving us forward. It is confusing to both providers and those receiving services. It is time to accept the decision from CMS and move forward with modernization.

Medicaid Managed Care is already used in 39 other states, covering 40 million persons, and Iowa has already used it for a portion of the Medicaid population since the 1990s. I’m optimistic that this approach will improve patient outcomes while also bringing more predictability to the budget.

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State Rep. Dean Fisher can be reached at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov or 641-750-3594.