Colorado state budget might face more cuts

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Colorado might face still more budget cuts if the federal government doesn’t come through with additional money for Medicaid.

The state was so sure Congress would pass a six-month extension of Medicaid help to the states, the $211 million was included in the budget.

But now, political fortunes have changed and congressional Democrats are hesitant to pass budget bills that will add to the federal deficit.

For the state of Colorado, that could mean still more cuts to education, particularly K-12, and other programs.

Colorado isn’t alone in the budget mess – at least 29 other states also included federal aid for Medicaid in their state budgets.

Medicaid funding has been inserted into a bill that awaits a full Senate vote, and then will have to be voted for in the House.

In a letter to Colorado’s congressional delegation, Gov. Bill Ritter urged swift passage.
“In a time of crisis, when one in 10 Coloradans depends on Medicaid for basic medical coverage, the neediest in our state simply cannot bear the brunt of these funding cuts,” Ritter said in the letter.

“If Colorado chooses to spread these cuts beyond Medicaid, already-suffering state programs will face worsening conditions. Public schools, higher-education institutions and grants to local governments will all likely face deeper service cuts. Lacking an extension, I will soon take steps to cut spending even more than we already have, putting programs that we all care deeply about in jeopardy.”

Lawmakers believe that federal health reform laws prevent cuts to Medicaid itself. A 2009 law that collects a hospital fee for matching federal dollars also complicates the issue.