Bentley mulling special session on Medicaid budget

Published 11:37 pm Wednesday, July 20, 2016

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on Wednesday said he is still considering a special session on Medicaid funding but has not made a final decision.

The governor said the Medicaid budget needs at least an additional $15 million in order to have adequate funding in the next fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The governor says he expects to announce a decision soon.

“You either cut or you raise revenue somehow,” Bentley told reporters after a Wednesday appearance. “You know, I’ve offered a lot of solutions in the last three years and the Legislature decided that they didn’t necessarily want to do those, but we’ll continue to work with them. We’ll come up with, again, some type of solution to try to solve the problem.”

Lawmakers budgeted $700 million for the state Medicaid program. Bentley said $785 million is needed to maintain the program. The governor said that he might be able to use oil spill settlement funds and other sources to partially close the gap. Bentley declined to name funding options for closing the remainder, but said a state lottery and tax increases are among the options.

“Always has been,” Bentley said when asked if a lottery was a funding option.

“But I’m not making any decision on any of those things yet. Taxes have always been in there, tax breaks. All these things have been looked at in the past, and all these things have to be looked at again.”

The chairmen of the general fund budget committees both said they anticipate a special session at some point, but said the governor has not spoken to them about specific plans.

“I’m expecting a special session,” Senate Finance and Taxation Committee Chairman Trip Pittman said. House and Senate leaders plan to meet Thursday.

House Ways and Means Chairman Steve Clouse said he understands the governor has talked to some lawmakers about lottery legislation.

“I don’t know what options he wants to throw out there,” Clouse said. “He’s been talking about the lottery. I think time is of the essence if you want to get in on the November ballot,” Clouse said.