Sponsored by:

vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Who has the power?

Members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Health Access Oversight wondered Wednesday how their colleagues on the Joint Fiscal Committee could decide to void the Legislature's decision about expanding eligibility to Catamount Health.

Tuesday, as part of the package of $28 million in budget changes to address problem of shrinking state revenues, the Joint Fiscal Committee agreed to cut the funding necessary to cover two changes in who qualifies for the state's Catamount Health program for the uninsured. The administration also recommended repealing the changes and the committee apparently went along with that suggestion -- for now. The immediate savings would be $81,000, but the future cost is estimated at more than $600,000 a year.

When the Legislature passed the Catamount changes, it directed the Douglas administration to apply by Sept. 1 to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for approval of an amendment to the state's Medicaid waiver that would allow federal dollars to help cover the expenses for this expansion.

Susan Besio, director of the Office of Vermont Health Access, said she is now caught between conflicting directives from legislators. Statute demands she file a letter with CMS, while the Joint Fiscal's vote suggests the application would be pointless.

The health oversight committee felt it had been left out of the loop and some members -- particularly Sen. Doug Racine, D-Chittenden, questioned what authority allowed the Joint Fiscal Committee to reverse a legislative policy decision.

This isn't the first time legislators who aren't on the Joint Fiscal Committee have chafed at the power that panel has -- most notably when budgets cuts are required after the Legislature adjourns.

Rep. Paul Poirier, I-Barre, proposed last winter that the Joint Fiscal Committee be stripped of its power to approve budget cuts. If changes are needed, Poirier said the governor should have to call the full Legislature back into session.

Lawmakers chose instead to rewrite some of the rules for off-season budget decisions, including a new requirement for a public hearing.

For now, however, the Joint Fiscal Committee still has "the power," but legislators on the health access oversight panel have asked for some legal advice about the limits of that power.

Interesting tussle.

-- Nancy Remsen

Labels: , , ,

It's about time!

Bartlett has managed to secure the power so that she and Diane Snelling can make the decisions - by agreeing with the Governor.
A small group of legislators should not be changing the policies put in place by the larger group.
As a result of H-75, the Joint Fiscal Committee can only cut 4% of the 2010 budget. They can only cut 1.4% the remainder of this year as a result of Tuesday's meeting.
Post a Comment

<< Home

Recent Posts

Recent Comments


June 2006   July 2006   August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007   March 2007   April 2007   May 2007   June 2007   July 2007   August 2007   September 2007   October 2007   November 2007   December 2007   January 2008   February 2008   March 2008   April 2008   May 2008   June 2008   July 2008   August 2008   September 2008   October 2008   November 2008   December 2008   January 2009   February 2009   March 2009   April 2009   May 2009   June 2009   July 2009   August 2009   September 2009   October 2009   November 2009   December 2009   January 2010   February 2010   March 2010   April 2010