Well, we finally received some facts regarding the Governor's TennCare “safety net” and how he plans to spend the excess revenues. The safety net program comprises about 76 million of the revenue surplus. We were given a two page synopsis and will probably be voting on it in two days. We spent more time discussing the 25 million Pre-K program than a 76 million dollar expenditure. In only two days we have to digest, study, and vote on a program with few facts.
This appears to be standard operating procedure and is why we are in the TennCare mess in the first place. Sometimes haste makes waste and this may be one of those times.
I see no true reform in the TennCare program. Instead the Governor's plan is simply kicking people off the program. With a temporary cash infusion fewer enrollees will be kicked off-but for how long? One of the best points raised in our caucus meeting with Governor's people on TennCare was this question: “Are we fixing the problem or just buying time? If we are just buying time, how long before the other shoe drops?”
Their answer: two to three years.
The rest of the new money goes for raises ,higher ed and other items I mentioned in my previous posts. I tried to get our caucus to push for a tax cut, but we could not reach a consensus on where to cut or even the type of tax to cut. Some wanted a sales tax holiday, others wanted to cut tax on food.
Others said we really don't have enough time to put together a new budget and present a well thought out alternative view. Most were just trying to get a handle on the current one. Too much too fast I guess. Perhaps that was the plan from the start. Instead of hurry up and wait---the plan is wait, wait, wait, and then hurry up.
Many legislators seem tired, and I can surely understand that. I think however this was a lost opportunity. If we would have had some facts and figures even two weeks ago, I feel confidant we could have come up a viable and responsible alternative.
I have to wonder how long the Governor has known about the excess. If he had time to put together such plans, then why wasn't the Legislature more informed?