LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Medicaid expansion lead the governor's State of the State Address Tuesday. He linked the health program to Arkansas' economy and said lawmakers can come together to provide a solution for Arkansans.
"Men and women with different views can still come together with the best interest of our citizens," said Arkansas Governor, Mike Beebe.
Governor Beebe addressed the first republican controlled house and senate since reconstruction and scattered his speech with optimism about the state's economy and health care system.
"This being my last regular session there is an urge to finish the job now," said Gov. Beebe.
The governor wants to finish off the grocery tax, but admitted it may be more feasible in the future than this year. He also said Medicaid expansion will help Arkansas stay competitive with small business sector.
"If we have no insurance available for our low income workers while more and more other states add those options it will make us less business friendly in comparison," said Gov. Beebe.
Speaker of the House, Davy Carter, said despite differing ideals, he and the governor will work together, especially on Medicaid.
"The governor's made his door open to me and others. My door is open," said Carter.
For three years beginning in 2014, the cost of Medicaid will be picked up by the federal government, a small state share will kick in beginning in 2017 and will raise for three more years to a maximum of 20 percent in 2020. Speaker Carter said uncertainty in Washington makes their job more trying.
"We're one congressional compromise away from that changing before the time that is set out now," said Carter.
Beebe told the floor the outlook for Medicaid is brighter, saying the projected shortfall is less than the $300 million estimate, and Medicaid is shrinking in Arkansas for the first time in 25 years. While Medicaid took the stage in his speech, the governor said education and job creation still remain a top priority.
Governor Beebe also told legislators he wants to create a smoother path for military families who move to the state by making it easier for students to transition to Arkansas schools.
The governor applauded legislators for their continued effort to support a balanced budget, and he said that step helped the state tremendously through the recession.
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