WASHINGTON - Governors of states including New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania will plead with Congress today for additional subsidies to help pay for providing health care to the poor.
The event, set up by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, follows the Senate's failure last week to move a bill forward that included $16 billion in extra funds for Medicaid, the state-run health-care program. The measure, which also was set to extend some jobless benefits, was blocked by Republicans opposed to its cost.
Rendell said 15 governors will participate in the event today, either in person or by video conference. "The battle to convince the Congress is still being waged," he said at a budget briefing in Harrisburg, the state capital.
The federal government increased Medicaid subsidies through this year as part of last year's economic stimulus package. More than 30 states had counted on the six-month extension contained in the stalled bill. A reversion to the previous subsidy rate on Jan. 1 would deal a blow to cash-strapped states including California, which expected $1.7 billion from the measure.
"The federal government is not supporting the states at the level they supported the financial institutions," New York Gov. David Paterson said in an interview on WOR radio in Manhattan on Tuesday. New York had expected almost $1.1 billion.
The stimulus measures helped states weather the recession, which battered their tax collections and forced service cutbacks. In total, states have projected budget deficits of $127 billion through 2012, according to the National Governors Association. The added Medicaid funds were expected to narrow those gaps by freeing cash to be used for other programs.
"Had it not been for the federal stimulus funds, state fiscal conditions would have been much worse," said Arturo Perez, who follows state budgets for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Because the bill stalled, more than 1 million people lost unemployment benefits last week.
Republicans objected to the cost of the bill, not the assistance itself, said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The stalled measure was projected to add $33 billion to the federal budget deficit. Stewart suggested the governors appeal to Democrats, "who insist on adding the bill to the national debt" instead of finding a way to pay for it.