Senate seeks to override vetoes

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Last week, I reported that both the House and the Senate voted for a responsible approach to resolving the Medicaid budget shortfall. Unfortunately, late Friday, the Governor vetoed all the key accountability provisions and is now left with an open checkbook combined with an unlimited credit card funded with your tax dollars.

The Senate Committee Substitute to House Bill 1 fully funded Medicaid services while protecting you, the tax-payer. The Governor was provided with the necessary funds this year but instead of basing Kentucky’s future financial security on an IOU promise, both the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed that the Governor would report to the Legislature on a monthly basis his progress in achieving certain cost savings. There was bipartisan agreement to require accountability measures documenting any Medicaid managed care savings, mandate reductions in non-merit personnel and personal service contracts, limit debt restructuring, and prohibit the Governor from furloughing any state employees. Furthermore, the bill required an independent firm to verify the Governor’s savings and mandated face-to-face interviews to help root out Medicaid fraud.  And the bill suspended any legislator compensation – no legislator would receive pay during the veto recess.

Apparently, the Governor informed the House of Representatives that he would be vetoing much of the bill.  While the House chose to adjourn, the Senate felt it important to maintain our ability to override any vetoes by returning to Frankfort on April 6th. This would ensure that key provisions regarding fiscal accountability, monthly reporting to the Legislature, and mandated cost savings measures would be retained.

As it turned out, the Governor did indeed veto large portions of the legislation and is now free to shift money from next year to pay for this year’s bills, has unlimited ability to incur and restructure debt, and has no requirement to pursue mandated government efficiencies.

As of this writing, the Democratic House Leadership is following the lead of the Wisconsin and Indiana Democrats and has refused to finish their work. By not being willing to return to Frankfort to override any vetoes and allowing the Governor to have total control over tax-payers’ money without any accountability, the House is abdicating their own legislative responsibility. Their inaction is short-sighted, irresponsible, and against the will of Kentuckians who value government accountability.

Ernie Harris represents the 26th District in the Kentucky Senate, which includes Carroll, Henry, Oldham, Trimble and part of Jefferson County. He serves on the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, the Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee, the State and Local Government Committee and the Banking and Insurance Committee. Contact him at (800) 372-7181 or TTY (800) 896-0305.