While Gov. Jan Brewer and select members of the Arizona Legislature celebrated the signing of the $8.8 billion budget for the 2013/2014 fiscal year on Monday, others were not as happy as plans continue to stop the Medicaid expansion through the ballot box.
Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, called the end of the 151-day legislative session a disaster. The session ended last week, with controversy after Brewer called for a special session that forced the House of Representatives to pass the proposed budget, which included the controversial Medicaid expansion.
“This Medicaid expansion is a real disaster,” Melvin said. “This Democratic budget that was pushed through the Senate and House in a process orchestrated by the governor much like Obamacare was passed. But this was even worse than what happened in (Washington D.C.). At least no Republicans backed it.”
Melvin, who is exploring a run for the governor’s seat in 2014, along with local Rep. Adam Kwasman, R-Tucson, were disappointed in the 15 Republicans between the House and the Senate who voted in favor of the budget and Medicaid expansion. Without the Republican votes, the measure could not have passed.
Kwasman and Melvin have vowed to support efforts by a group led by former state Sen. Frank Antenori, who is working to collect signatures that would put the Medicaid expansion measure on a November election ballot.
By approving the expansion, the new law will increase the number of people receiving benefits from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) from 1.3 million residents being eligible to 1.6 million. Many of the 300,000 residents who will now benefit from the expansion are adults who remain too young for Medicare benefits.
“The answer is not to add 300,000 indigent healthcare roles, it’s to create more jobs,” said Melvin. “The answer is private sector jobs that provide these residents with healthcare benefits.”
Through the Affordable Healthcare Act, or what often is referred to as Obamacare, the federal government has promised to kick in about $1.6 billion a year, while Arizona will pay $240 million through a hospital tax.
Melvin and Kwasman agree that state Republicans who voted against the expansion do not trust the federal government’s promise to provide the $1.6 billion per year. The state lawmakers feel the federal government will renege on the promise, especially given that the U.S. is knocking on the door of a $17 trillion debt.
“You don’t want to be in debt to the federal government who will likely stop this match,” Kwasman said. “This could end up costing this state billions.”
Also being targeted by Antenori, Melvin and Kwasman are the Republicans who allowed the budget to be approved. The group of 15 Republicans have since been labeled as RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).
Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, is one of those being targeted for his vote to approve the budget, and for going along with the overnight special session called by Brewer on June 11.
When asked about the reaction to the budget approval, Orr said he is surprised at how some Republicans are choosing to behave.
“Ultimately, people in Arizona want good policy discussion,” he said. “Policy shouldn’t become this personal. They certainly have a right to challenge through an election, but I hope they all realize how it’s going to cost the state and put the entire AHCCS system into a state of chaos.”
Melvin said Orr has even more to worry about as he along with the 14 other Republicans will have to answer to voters in the 2014 elections.