State surplus: What to do with it? | Arkansas Blog

State surplus: What to do with it?

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THROW THE BUMS OUT: Time to reduce Medicaid rolls, Rep. John Burris says.
  • THROW THE BUMS OUT: Time to reduce Medicaid rolls, Rep. John Burris says.
Arkansas finished its budget year with more than $90 million in excess of expected revenue.

Naturally, legislators have ideas about making use of it. In keeping with Tea Party thinking everywhere, Republican leaders, such as House Republican leader Rep. John Burris, want to cut taxes despite a proven pile of important needs. Gov. Mike Beebe, for example, wants to devote money to a looming Medicaid financial crisis. Note Burris, please:

Asked about Beebe’s preference for making the money available for Medicaid, Burris said the answer to the Medicaid shortfall is reform.

“The rolls continue to grow, and if we’re going to actually fix the problem we’ve got to get people off the system, not keep adding them to it,” he said. “Throwing more money at a system that’s growing and broken isn’t the answer.”

Yes. Let's solve our money problem by cutting taxes and depriving still more people of medical care. And punish those most in need — they are voiceless, powerless and don't contribute to political campaigns. This is Republican national budgeting strategy brought home to Arkansas and exactly the sort of approach that will become routine in Arkansas should the GOP take control of the legislature in 2012.

There's a tendency to think of Medicaid, the federal health program for poor people, as another handout to welfare deadbeats. It's much more, of course. It is: Innocent sick children at Children's Hospital. Tens of thousands of working poor people whose low-wage jobs don't come with health insurance and, even if they did, the workers couldn't afford the co-pays. Thousands and thousands of people in nursing homes. Disabled workers stripped of savings by debilitating conditions.

Credit to Republican Sen. Gilbert Baker for counseling that a one-year surplus is one-time money. Tax cuts go on forever and, as long as there are doctors and hospitals, medical costs will continue to rise, no matter what the state and federal government can come up with by way of reforms.

PS — Brummett today examines causes for the surplus (I like the idea that it's earnings on investments amassing on the sidelines thanks to low tax rates) and endorses Beebe's view on handling the surplus.

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