Ritter joins governors urging Congress to extend health spending

As part of a desperate bipartisan group consisting of the vast majority of the nation’s governors, Bill Ritter called on Congress to pass Federal Medical Assistance Percentages or FMAP funding extensions to provide matching funds for state Medicaid programs.

“We face increasing demand for services despite the decreasing revenues. Since this recession has begun, we have had a partnership with the federal government to ease the fees we are paying for our hospitals, schools, police and other services. Without this FMAP extension, we will be forced to make deeper cuts when we have less ability to minimize that pain to Coloradans.”

Ritter said in the last two years Colorado has cut $3.5 billion from the state budget. He said lawmakers have so far preserved services Medicaid services but that they would have fallen under the axe had FMAP not passed.

“In the fiscal year beginning tomorrow, I have already reconciled shortfalls of $1.3 billion,” Ritter said, noting that he now has to find another $61 million to cut. “Without the FMAP extension, that $61 million will become $272 million.”

To make up that amount, the burden will again fall schools and on services like job training that the state needs to help it recover from the recession.

Ritter said he cared about the federal deficit but that those concerns are misplaced as a priority just now, that the moment Colorado is bouncing back is the wrong time to pull to pull the plug on federal assitance.

“It is not the time to slow recovery. Now is not the time to risk that progress we have made. Now is not the time to risk further job losses on the part of Congress.”

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, a conservative Democrat who used to be a Republican, said he was a businessman who saw the value in FMAP extensions. He said so far he has “cut and cut and cut” his budget to the bone.

“I want to make the point that I am not a spendthrift liberal…nevertheless, I support this FMAP extension.”

The governors said they were each working to convince their delegations in Washington to support the extension. They said partisan politics has gotten in the way of real movement.

“Along with more than 45 of my fellow governors, Democrat and Republican, I want to strongly urge Congress to extend the FMAP program,” California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger said. “The Federal money is critical in preventing deeper pain and deeper job losses.”

Schwarzenegger said the federal government is not cutting money to programs that the state implemented but to programs the states are required by law to provide.

“The federal Government can not have it both ways.” Schwarzenegger said. “I understand the need to restrain federal spending… but for Congress to require states to preserve safety net programs and then to cut the funding for those very programs when it is needed most? It is simply unfair and will have devastating consequences.”

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