TN governor tells Corker, Gordon that state can't afford ObamaCare

Gov. Phil Bredesen isn’t against health-care reform, mind you.  He’s just against having his state get stuck with mandates that will cost Tennessee over $750 million in the first year.  He wrote to Senator Bob Corker (a no vote) and Rep. Bart Gordon, who just announced he’d vote yes on ObamaCare, to ask them to cut the state some slack, and Kerry Picket at the Washington Times got a copy of the letter.  She published a copy of the final four paragraphs:

Bob and Bart, the problem we are facing is simple: by 2013,we expect to have returned to our 2008 levels of revenue and will have already cut our programs dramatically – over a billion dollars.  At that point, we have to start digging out — we will have not given raises to state employees or teachers for five years, our pension fund will need shoring up, our cash reserves (“rainy day fund”) will have been considerably depleted and in need of restoration, and we will have not made any substantial new investments for years.  There will have been major cuts to areas such as Childrens Services that we really need to restore.  On top of these, there are all the usual obligations to be met — Medicaid, for example, will continue to grow in excess of the economy and our tax revenues.  It’s going to take at least a full decade to dig our way out and back to where we were prior to this recession.

In this environment, for Congress to also send along a mandatory bill for three-quarters of a billion dollars for the health reform they’ve designed is very difficult.  These are hard dollars – we can’t borrow them – and make the management of our finances post-recession even more daunting than it already is.  …

I very much want to support the President, and Lord knows we have plenty of people in Tennessee who need help with health insurance.  But this is an extraordinary time for us (and we are better off than many states) and I will appreciate any way in which you can help us manage through this.

The problem is simple from the perspective of Washington and the Democrats, too.  They need to pass health-care reform but make it look like it saves money.  The only way to do that is to force states into expanding Medicaid in order to absorb more of the uninsured.  The nifty part for Democrats in Washington is that Medicaid costs are mainly borne by the states.

Bredesen’s right about the expansion of Medicaid under current conditions — it’s part of the entitlement catastrophe already, and this will hasten its arrival.  We’re about to take a program whose growth already outstrips inflation and our economic growth and vastly expand it through federal mandates on the states.

Does this actually save us money?  Of course not.  It’s a shell game.  Our state taxes will have to increase while Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama blather on about cost “savings” in ObamaCare.  Meanwhile, states already running in the red will find themselves desperate for cash infusions, just as Bredesen describes.  Where will that come?  Given its track record on Porkulus, Obama will almost certainly push for more “stimulus” block grants for states in order to cover those shortfalls caused by the new federal mandates, which means the federal government will pay for this in most cases, probably for the next several years.  It just won’t get included in the accounting for ObamaCare, allowing Democrats to claim that they have somehow reduced spending on health care through their reform.

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