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Hutchinson: Highway plan dead without Medicaid expansion

by The Associated Press | April 12, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. | Updated April 12, 2016 at 4:44 p.m.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks Tuesday April 12, 2016, at the state Capitol on funding of Arkansas' expanded Medicaid program.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday said a failure to reauthorize funding of Arkansas’ expanded Medicaid program would mean no special session regarding his highway funding that was pitched earlier this year.

“If Arkansas Works is not funded, that means there is no ability to use surplus and take more money from general revenue to fund highways,” Hutchinson said. “That is the bottom line. That is a real-life consequence.”

In January, Hutchinson unveiled his highway plan, which he said would boost funding to match federal highway dollars — a move that would generate about $750 million over a 10-year period, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette previously reported.

Hutchinson said that without approval of his Medicaid plan, his highway funding proposal to use $40 million from accumulated and unallocated surplus for one-time use would be impossible given a budget gap of more than $100 million.

“The only other way to have a highway plan is to raise taxes, and that was the premise of my highway plan that you would not raise taxes,” he said.

During a special session last week, lawmakers approved the Republican governor’s Arkansas Works plan. The plan is expected to face a challenge by some Republicans as it requires a higher threshold of votes — three-fourths — later this week.

A fiscal session of the state Legislature is set to begin Wednesday, and the budget bill to consider Arkansas' Medicaid expansion, which uses federal funds to buy private insurance for low-income residents, is on the agenda.

Hutchinson said nine or 10 members of the state Senate have indicated that they will vote no on funding the program that provides coverage for nearly 270,000 residents.

“We continue to have discussions with them, we continue to look for solutions, but they have not indicated they are going to vote yes,” he said.

Read Wednesday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.


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