State Rep. Steve Clouse: Prison reform, CHIP top issues for general fund; ‘Not this year’ on Medicaid expansion
DOTHAN — The next general session of the Alabama legislature will not convene in Montgomery for another four and a half months. However, very significant challenges lie ahead for the members when they meet in 2020.
House General Fund budget committee chairman Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) discussed those challenges Tuesday during an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN.
Clouse said prisons would likely top the list for the legislature. However, determining what that will be is on hold he said until Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration offers a plan.
“The prison situation will be front and center here,” Clouse said on “The Jeff Poor Show” during an on-location broadcast from Dothan. “We’re still basically waiting on the governor’s office, the administration to present a plan. They have got a couple of companies that are working on different alternatives for us – a lease-build type situation, and possibly going in and passing a bond issue ourselves that would have to come through the legislature.”
“I don’t know exactly where that’s going to go right now,” he added. “We’ll just have to look at the numbers when they come out.”
Clouse also cited the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which will soon require state governments picking up more and more of the cost, which will be upwards of an additional $70 million price tag in the coming year.
“One of the issues that we had last year was getting members in the legislature aware of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the demands are going to be placed more and more on the states,” he said. “That is the last 20 years since the program has been in existence, basically the federal government has been picking up the whole tab on that. Over the last four or five years, it has been under a one-year authorization, and you know, not knowing if it was going to be reauthorized or not — and even if it was, not knowing how much the feds were going to pick up. At the last minute, they’ve always picked it up, you know.”
“Of course, it is what led to last year – January of last year, when the federal government shut down the first time for four or five days – that was the impetus that brought everybody together to get the government back going again past continuing resolution in Washington to make sure CHIP got reauthorized,” Clouse continued. “Of course, they picked up the full tab last year and are doing it this year right now. But, starting October 1 with the new budget, we’ll have to pick up about $35 million of that cost, which we’re going to be able to do. And then next year, the full amount is going to be kicking in on us. That’s going to be about an additional $70 million.”
As for the possibility of Medicaid expansion, a policy favored by many of the state’s elected Democrats, Clouse said he did not think it would come this year and said a determination on that would happen when what direction national health care policy was going to take after the 2020 elections.
“I don’t think so right now – not this year,” Clouse said. “I think it’s going to be an issue, another national issue in the presidential race. It will probably come up a lot in our U.S. Senate race, and our congressional races about the national health care situation and whether or not we’re going to continue Obamacare. And if we do, what’s going to be the guidelines going forward.”