Saturday, August 8, was the deadline for conference committee reports on state agency budgets. However, lawmakers passed placeholder bills to several appropriations bills. “Generally speaking, most state agency will see year-over–year numbers that are flat,” said Lt. Governor. Tate Reeves said. Reeves said, “Don’t be surprised tomorrow that some of the bills are recommitted.” “That’s a normal process that we go through as there still are conversations about specific language, making sure everything gets done correctly, and so conference committees are groups composed of three legislators from each chamber. They meet often behind closed doors to discuss differences and create a final bill. Although many agencies don’t know the exact amount of money they will receive next year, Reeves answered questions about specific agencies. * K-12 education will see an overall increase of $9million, with about $3 million for early education. The Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which is the public school funding formula, won’t see an increase. * Institutions of Higher Learning will experience an increase of approximately $9 million. Child Protection Services will see an approximate $12 million increase. The Department of Human Services will experience an increase of approximately $18 million. The increase in funding for the Department of Health is approximately $1.9 million. * The current fiscal year’s appropriation amount will not be used to fund the Division of Medicaid. * The Department of Mental Health will also be funded at a level. Reeves stated that the current fiscal year deficit funding appropriations are still being negotiated among lawmakers. These are appropriations that provide additional funds for agencies who have informed the Legislature they cannot make ends meet this fiscal, which runs through June 30 on the current appropriation. In addition to the appropriations made for state agencies, the $280 million bond bill was approved by lawmakers. It includes $82 million for Institutions of Higher Learning; $50 million for Local System Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program; $45 millions for various state agencies; $45 million each for Huntington Ingalls shipbuilders and $25 million each for community and junior college. Many will be happy to see the bond bill pass. The Legislature failed to pass a bond bill last fiscal year due to delays in negotiations between Senate and House leaders. Although the Medicaid budget was approved by lawmakers, Senate leaders stated that they are not closer to resolving the major sticking point in the Medicaid technical bill. This means that the bill is at risk of dying. The bill will be killed if the two houses don’t reach an agreement by Monday. Gov. Phil Bryant has the option of running the agency through executive order. Senate leaders made it clear Saturday that they believed the problem was caused by their colleagues in Congress. They said they were trying to please powerful interests and were not being honest with them. Brice Wiggins, Chairman of the Senate Medicaid Committee, stated that “the House wants to place the tech bill at danger because of Mississippi True.” “There are a lot of issues in this tech bill and the Mississippi True Amendment is just one, but the Hospital Association made it all about that.” At the heart of the battle between two powerful interest groups, the Hospital Association and the insurance companies paying them, the technical bill details how the agency will spend $6 billion annually. Mississippi True, an insurance provider that is supported by the Hospital Association, was unsuccessful in a bid for one of three Medicaid managed care contracts. Each contract is approximately $1 billion. It has been lobbying relentlessly for a share of the lucrative managed-care pie since then, an argument that is supported by the House. However, the Senate has taken a firm stance, saying that the Legislature should not change internal agency decisions because they are unhappy with them. This opinion is strongly supported by the three Medicaid insurers, United Health Care and Magnolia Health, who were chosen for contracts. Mississippi Today asked Wiggins Saturday if the Tech Bill died, and if so, was the Hospital Association responsible. His response was concise and straight to the point. Wiggins replied, “Yes.” The state Hospital Association declined comment. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today.