Arizona's Brewer to Request Federal Waiver to Cut Medicaid

 
Faced with a continuing budget crisis, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is asking the federal government for special permission to cut people off of her state's Medicaid rolls, the Associated Press reports . The recent federal health care law forbids states from reducing Medicaid eligibility, but Brewer said on Thursday she will ask for a waiver to get around that requirement. Details of the waiver haven't been finalized, but last year the Republican Legislature tried to cut Medicaid eligibility down to the federal minimum, which would have knocked 250,000 people off the rolls. The state reversed course to avoid violating the federal requirements. Brewer, a Republican, won reelection last month and Republicans strengthened their control of both houses of the Legislature. Despite approving a sales tax increase earlier this year, Arizona still faces a mid-year budget shortfall of $825 million and a $1.4 billion shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year. The state already has approved some Medicaid cuts, including limitations on organ transplants that have prompted national scrutiny.

One of Iowa Governor Chet Culver's signature initiatives was the Iowa Power Fund, a program to direct grants to alternative energy projects. In 2007, the Legislature approved the program with $100 million for four years. Culver, defeated in his reelection bid by Terry Branstad ( profile ), will soon be gone from office. The Power Fund might be gone too, the Quad City Times reports . "I think you're going to see us just wholesale eliminate a couple different programs and a couple different offices, and we're going to start with those that have marginal or no benefit," incoming House Speaker Kraig Paulsen said, citing the Power Fund as an example. Paulsen, a Republican like Branstad, complained that the Power Fund hasn't provided him with numbers on how many jobs its grants have created.

Minnesota Governor-elect Mark Dayton campaigned on plans to offer universal all-day kindergarten and to fund other early-childhood programs. Now, as he considers the state's budget situation, Dayton is wavering as to whether that's possible right away. Minnesota faces a $6.2 billion budget shortfall in the upcoming biennium. "So I'll be honest with you, it's going to be very difficult to enact the initiatives that I proposed in my campaign that I believe in, that I know all of you view as so crucial," Dayton said at an anti-poverty event on Thursday, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune .

Most new governors are picking longtime loyalists for top jobs. In Tennessee , though, Bill Haslam ( profile ) is breaking from that mold, the Tennessean reports . The incoming governor's choice to head the Department of Public Safety is Shelby County prosecutor Bill Gibbons , who was one of Haslam opponents in the Republican primary this year. His new chief of staff, Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey , supported another one of his primary foes. Haslam also is keeping Department of Financial Institutions Commissioner Greg Gonzales , who was appointed by outgoing Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat.

Beaten in the November elections, Democrats' majorities in the Wisconsin House and Senate will be gone by next month. The party's defeated gubernatorial nominee thinks the Democrats should use their last days in power to overhaul the redistricting process. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett made the proposal in a letter to legislative leaders, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports . As he proposed during the campaign, Barrett wants Wisconsin's non-partisan Government Accountability Board to handle redistricting.  Wisconsin is one of only two states, along with Maine, that will go from having a Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature to a Republican governor and Republican legislative majorities.  In their last days in power, Democrats in the Ohio House already have tried and failed to approve redistricting reform. 
 
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