Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Medicaid and income tax will be two of the biggest talkers at the Capitol in the 2013 session.
The Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee met Wednesday morning and received the quarterly report from the state Medicaid program.
"The growth in our roles for the first quarter in state fiscal year '13 was .93 percent. That's about 6,200 eligible that were added to our roles," said Tom Carlisle, CFO for DHS.
This time last year, the state saw a 2.4 percent increase or 15,600 people added to Medicaid. DHS thought drop off was because of an uptick in the Arkansas economy, but are not ready to say the remainder of the year will have the same trend.
Despite the slowing of new Medicaid participants, lawmakers will need to find an answer to the funding shortfall and the possibility of expansion.
"Medicaid expansion no...That's growing government; it's going to add cost. When you add 250,000 people, you're going to see the Medicaid budget balloon, and yes, the federal government may be picking up the first three years of it, but that's a federal government $16 trillion in debt," said republican Rep. David Meeks from Conway.
It's certain to be a hotly contested issue. While Meeks said he is against any expansion, former representative and new democratic state senator, Uvalde Lindsey, feels differently.
"Arkansas should take care of those folks that need help the most. Our older folks and our kids obviously in utilization of Medicaid today-- the roles predominantly support and help kids," said Lindsey from Fayetteville.
Tax reform will also be heavily debated. Governor Mike Beebe proposed a sharp reduction on the grocery tax and lawmakers will look at other tax code as well.
"Folks in Arkansas begin to pay a 1 percent state income tax at $2,000, that floor established in the 1990's needs to be elevated," said Lindsey.