Budget plans beat hopes

Published 12:17 pm Thursday, March 24, 2011

Daily Herald Editorial

There is a difference between planning and hoping, something that Minnesota House Republicans apparently don’t understand as they attempt to put together a plan that will erase the state’s projected $5.2 billion budget deficit.

When the lawmakers introduced their plan to trim the budget deficit, it included an assumption that the state could cut $300 million from its Medicaid spending. The trouble is, it seems, saving that money is not actually within the state’s power, because the way that it administers Medicaid is subject to federal oversight. To save $300 million on the program over two years, Minnesota would have to receive a federal waiver that would let it set its own rules for the program. Although one state, Rhode Island, has received that waiver, it did so under circumstances that simply don’t apply to Minnesota.

The charitable interpretation of the House Republican budget is that it’s a case of hope trumping reality, as opposed to intentional smoke and mirrors. But either way, counting on a waiver from a federal government whose boss, the president, seems committed to health care benefits for the poor and elderly, strikes us as unlikely to bear fruit.

We’ve noted several times this winter that those in control at the Capitol seem unable to put forth a useful plan for erasing the state’s budget deficit. It is, however, still not too late — and Minnesotans must hope that lawmakers have some ideas that are less fanciful and more likely to produce results.