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Monday, June 22, 2015

The Medicaid Explosion: What It Tells Us About Us, Plus: One More Take On Getting Early Prez Action Here 

It was another cold splash of water across the face of the state's body politic--skyrocketing eligibility for the Medicaid program signals that New Mexico is drifting deeper into welfare state territory. In a few years it's estimated that nearly 900,000 will be enrolled in the federal-state medical insurance program for low-income households. That's nearly half the state's entire population.

Low paying jobs--many of them part-time--are replacing high paying ones that continue to drift away (see Intel layoffs and continuing cuts in federal spending here). You can't afford much health insurance on $11 an hour.

Besides illuminating the depth of poverty in the state, the Medicaid explosion also again shines the spotlight on the state budget. Medicaid is paid largely by the Feds but the state's share will become much larger in the years ahead. Are we going to be able to grow our economy to generate the tax revenue to pay for it? Or without the rest of the budget getting hit? Given the secular economic stagnation that is now the new normal, that's highly unlikely. And even if we did, tax cutting fever continues in Santa Fe, threatening to move any new tax dollars out the door. Sharon Kayne of NM Voices for Children explains it this way:

The loss of  $200 million of corporate tax revenue due to the tax cuts passed in 2013 is significant. That tax cut cost us more than enough to cover the state’s future share of the Medicaid expansion. . . .The tax department told lawmakers that it would not result in lost revenue, due to the jobs it would create. Clearly, those jobs are not materializing. On the other hand, we knew the state would eventually need to pay a small portion of the Medicaid expansion. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act has had a net positive impact on state revenues (due in large part to the tax on health insurance policies). What’s more, all of the federal money coming in via Medicaid has created economic stimulus. That can be seen in the fact that virtually all of the recent job creation has been in health care because so many people now have coverage.

Agreed, except that the "net positive impact on state revenues" appears about to disappear with the larger state Medicaid bill due.

Despite that looming Medicaid bill and continued decline in oil and gas revenue, state lawmakers during their recent special session passed yet another round of tax breaks that could cost over $10 million a year (no one seems to know for sure).

Medicaid expansion is creating health-care jobs and also promises to make for a healthier New Mexico. Medicaid is not the problem. The problem continues to be our inability to educate and prepare the citizenry for good paying jobs, attracting those good-paying jobs and keeping the good-paying jobs we have. Combine that with a nonstop tax-cutting policy that challenges rationality and you get a second-world state where people vote with their feet--and a Medicaid explosion to boot.

ONE MORE KICK

Let's kick the can one more time on whether NM Dems should try to get in on the early prez action by moving to a February caucus instead of a June primary. Bernalillo County Dem ward chair Don Schiff comes with the final take:

As a state central committee member and chair of the Bernalillo County Democratic Party Caucus Committee in 2008, I can tell you that over my dead body will the party ever run an election again. It just took too much work and money. The County Clerks are the professionals at running elections and we should simply let them do their jobs in the future.

I take issue with the contention that the caucus was an "unmitigated disaster," though. A lot of people were unhappy with the time it took to verify the results, but the delegate breakdown was known almost immediately. Most of the reporting problems had to do with the fact that then-Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colon had promised that every vote would be counted, and there were an extremely high number of provisional ballots which the party allowed to come from all over the state, not just within each county, as is the norm in regular elections. Even with an army of volunteers, it took a couple of weeks to accept or reject all the ballots, but I would like to point out that the canvas was completed on time according to Party rules.

THE BOTTOM LINES

In the blog Friday Analee Maestas was referenced as a former APS board member. She is a current board member. . .Summer arrived Sunday and with it the ideal time to explore New Mexico. Here are all the short videos produced for the NM True tourism campaign that might give you an idea or two for that summer break.

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