This Washington

Extra Fizz: Sen. Patty Murray Amendment Secures Medicaid Money, Special Session Not Needed*

By Josh Feit August 4, 2010

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray passed an amendment to an unrelated air-traffic control bill over a potential filibuster this morning, winning cloture on her proposal to get $16.1 billion in Medicaid money to the states. The vote on Murray's amendment was 61-38. Now the amendment goes to the Senate floor, where it only needs a simply majority. (The GOP had blocked the measure twice already.)

Washington State's 2010-2011 budget was counting on $480 million in Medicaid money from the feds; without the money, the governor may have been forced to call a special session of the legislature to make additional cuts to the $4 billion in cuts the state already made this biennium.

Making a desperate trip to D.C. in late June, Gregoire told congress that without the money, she’d be forced to make another 7.5 percent “across-the-board” cuts, which would mean an end to hospice care for seniors, cuts to preschool, and cutting 60,000 people off low-income medical assistance.

Murray's amendment, as her press release underlined, was fully paid for with offsets. (The Rossi campaign made a stink when the Democrats voted for a $34 billion in emergency unemployment insurance extension without finding cuts to pay for it now.)

Murray's office provided PubliCola with the list of offsets for the Medicaid money which include everything from $100 million in cuts to the General Services Administration to $82 million from the Department of Education.

The governor's office says Washington isn't going to get the full $480 million (it will be more like $320 million) but the budget will still have an ending fund surplus of about "$90 million-ish."

"We won't need to do one," Gregoire spokesman Viet Shelton said when asked about the need for a special session. *However, the governor is still waiting on the next quarter's receipts and wouldn't unequivocally rule out the need for more cuts. The first month of the quarter was down $85 million.

Murray's amendment also provides money for teachers—about $250 million for Washington state.
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