Is the $387 million in federal health care money in Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget proposal stimulus money? Or it is just federal cash?
Here's how the Star Tribune described it in Tuesday's article:
"Nearly one-third of the governor's budget fix would rely on $387 million in federal stimulus money."
Sounds pretty simple, no? No.
Minnesota is slated to get the $387 million for its Medicaid costs under President Obama's proposed budget. The measure would have the feds continue to pick up some Medicaid costs from the state and extend a change in financing responsibility first adopted in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
That bill is commonly known as the "stimulus" bill, on Monday the Minnesota finance commissioner Tom Hanson explained the federal Medicaid change, known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP), as something that occurred in the "stimulus" bill and states all over the county (including New York and Connecticut) referred to the influx of cash as "stimulus" money. The $387 million Minnesota would get, if approved by Congress and signed into law, would extend the FMAP change in that original measure.
But Pawlenty deputy chief of staff Brian McClung came down to the Star Tribune office Tuesday to say, the $387 million is not stimulus money.
"It's not stimulus funds. There are separate pots of money within a larger bill," McClung said. "No economist would tell you that this Medicaid money is stimulative in any way....The Obama administration never described this FMAP money as stimulus money. Nor did they claim it was stimulative."
On Tuesday Pawlenty told reporters, "This is not designed to be stimulus money, this is the federal government paying for a program it mandates," according to the Associated Press.
Why should anyone care?
Because Pawlenty, who appears to be doing everything in his power to gear up for a 2012 run for president, has been sharply critical of the stimulus bill.
And because the Democratic National Committee, which has been watching Pawlenty do everything in his power to gear up for a 2012 run, Tuesday cited Pawlenty use of "stimulus money" (as quoted in the Star Tribune) and accused Pawlenty of "stunning hypocrisy." The criticism fits into a theme the DNC developed Tuesday of accusing Republicans of "blasting" the stimulus and then reaping the benefits.
You decide: Stimulus? Not stimulus? Does it matter?
An aside for the Twitterati:
McClung said, "Politics today is down to 140 characters. There is a difference between saying federal funding and saying stimulus funding. And I'm just presenting my side."
Asked if his tweet would be: "It's not stimulus," McClung said no.
This reporter's suggestion that the next hashtag should be #whitehouse2012 was met with laughter, not agreement.