With ten senators threatening to shut down the government unless the Medicaid expansion is killed, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is going on the attack.
“Sen. Linda Collins-Smith has one of the districts that will be hit the greatest by the cuts that would be imposed by the alternative House budget,” Hutchinson said, referring to the budget released by House Speaker Jeremy Gillam earlier this week, which attempts to make up the shortfall that would happen if Medicaid expansion ends and blows a $143-$200 million hole in the budget. “The total budget impact to her district from the House alternative budget is $651,000 — but most significantly, $400,000 cut in higher ed in her district, $125,000 in K-12 education, $42,000 in pre-k programs. The libraries would be cut $11,000 in her district, the senior citizens centers $23,000. The counties lose money and the cities lose money.”
The governor provided an itemized list.
“My question to Sen. Collins-Smith is: Do you support these cuts to your district?” Hutchinson said. “If you do not support these cuts to your district, what is your alternative budget and where do you think those cuts should come from?”
Hutchinson also responded to comments from Sen. Bryan King that the budget hole could simply be solved by getting rid of unspecified “waste, fraud, and abuse” in the Department of Human Services.
The governor pointed to a Madison County Record article from a week ago in which King said he hoped to see increases in DHS funding this year.
I’m getting two different signals from some of the senators. One of the signals is that this money is easy to cut — that there is waste in DHS, that there is no problem in cutting DHS. But it’s a different message by Sen. Bryan King in his district. I look at the Madison Country Record — his district, Huntsville — in which Sen. Bryan King this year said that he hopes he sees increases in DHS funding. He goes on to say that last year DHS was hit by cuts … that effected centers in Madison County, including the Madison County Senior Activity Center.
King told the Record that he wanted to see more funding for foster families and for senior activity centers.
“I get the heat from the districts, from the Wellness Centers in Madison County and from senior citizens across the state, saying ‘we’ve got to have this funding,'” Hutchinson said. “And yet Sen. King comes here and says it’s easy to cut DHS. [He gives] mixed signals. My question to Sen. King is, do you want us to follow his admonition to the district and increase funding for foster care, or do you want us to listen to his message here in Little Rock that it’s easy to cut DHS?”
I’ve called both King and Collins-Smith to get their response and will update this post if I hear back.
UPDATE: King told the AP in response to Hutchinson’s comments that “to try and paint Bryan King as (sending) mixed messages, [the governor] is being a lawyer and not a leader.”
Support for special health care reporting made possible by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.