Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration lacks the legal authority to use a $127 million accounting trick to help cover a shortfall in state health programs for the poor, the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget and audit offices report.
The finding means the Democratic administration could have to seek lawmakers’ approval for the budget maneuver, which involves pushing off Medicaid payments to health care providers into the next budget to help cover a hole in the current one. That could pose problems, because the Legislature, now controlled by Democrats, isn’t scheduled to return until January, when Doyle leaves office.
Here’s the worst part of this story: even if the provider payments can be delayed, the state is still going to have to scrape together roughly $58 million in new state money (or face the prospect of making even larger cuts) in order to balance the Medicaid budget, according to a new memo released this week by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
It’s safe to say I won’t be shedding many tears once Gov. Jim Doyle leaves office, because while he’s done some good things as governor, situations like this are a perfect example of how he’s been too willing to take shortcuts – whether completely legal or not – when it comes to the Wisconsin state budget.