Still without a budget for the new fiscal year that begins next week, Gov. Haley Barbour said Monday that he would refuse to call a special session of the Mississipi Legislature to deal with the budget because he disagrees with a major provision in a proposed spending plan negotiated by lawmakers over the weekend.
That provision would prevent the governor from making cuts, if necessary, in portions of the state Medicaid program.
In a letter to House Speaker William McCoy, Barbour said that in addition to Medicaid problems, House and Senate conferees haven’t agreed on how to close out fiscal 2009 with a balanced budget.
“I cannot agree to a bill that gives Medicaid a blank check and leaves no authority or responsibility for the governor to ensure our state budget is balanced,” Barbour wrote. “It is my belief and hope that we can agree to a fair, permanent, and sustainable solution for Medicaid that balances the state budget, and I pledge to continue to work toward that end. However, I will not issue the call for a special session with these major issues outstanding.”
Barbour and lawmakers also differ over the amount of a hospital tax that would help fund Medicaid. Legislators ended their regular session earlier this month but failed to approve a 2010 budget. In addition to the Medicaid disagreement, some problems stemmed from uncertainty over federal stimulus rules.
The disagreement, and lack of a budget, now leaves state agencies and school districts in limbo.
Attorney General Jim Hood reportedly is preparing the necessary paperwork to seek a court order to keep the government operating if there is no budget by July 1. Such an order would allow the treasurer to pay bills if a new appropriations bill is not passed.