The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $26 billion plan that will help states, including Idaho, pay for Medicaid and help schools districts pay teachers salaries. The plan will save Idaho the state of Idaho $68 million from a fund used for anti-drug programs.
Rep. Walt Minnick joined with the majority of Democrats in supporting the measure, while Republican Mike Simpson sided with members of his party in opposing it.
The spending plan extends the enhanced federal match for Medicaid for another six months, costing $16.1 billion. Idaho will see approximately $68 million in Medicaid dollars. It also provides $10 billion to school districts, which supporters say will save the jobs of 161,000 teachers in the U.S. It is paid for by cutting food stamps starting in 2014 and removing a foreign tax credit often used by businesses that ship jobs overseas, as well as other spending reductions.
“When one broke unit of government borrows foreign money to bail out another broke unit of government, the inevitable loser is the taxpayer,” said Simpson said in a prepared statement.
Simpson also said that the plan is of less help to Idaho, which had budgeted for not getting the Medicaid money, while some states are bailed out of potential budget messes. “Other states have simply put off the tough decisions hoping and praying that the federal government will step in and solve their fiscal problems for them,” Simpson said. “What the House did today rewards poorly managed states, like California, and encourages their continued fiscal mismanagement while punishing the taxpayers of states, like Idaho, that have acted responsibly. It is not right and I cannot support it.”
Minnick did not respond to a request for comment on his “yes” vote on the plan. He said in June that the Medicaid match needed to be paid for by Congress, as the final approved plan was.
The state of Idaho and the federal government split funding for Medicaid, with the federal government covering the majority of the cost. Under the 2009 stimulus plan, Idaho paid an even smaller share. That was set to expire at the end of December, which is in the middle of the state’s fiscal year. Idaho lawmakers approved a plan to use the Idaho Millennium Fund cover that $68 million gap. Now that fund, which comes from the earnings from the 1998 multi-state tobacco settlement and pays for anti-drug and anti-addiction programs, won’t need to be touched.
Idaho’s two Republican senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, voted against the plan in the Senate earlier this week. “The fact is that Congress must move forward and deal with these needs without adding to the national debt and without raising taxes,” Crapo said about the legislation in a news conference call.
The funding for teachers was backed by the Idaho Education Association, which represents teachers. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said that Idaho could get $51 million in federal funding from the legislation.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation Tuesday. Photo courtesy of David Frazier