Pawlenty to feds: We'll take the cash

  • Article by: WARREN WOLFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 7, 2010 - 9:55 PM

Although critical of the stimulus legislation, Pawlenty said Minnesota will accept $230 million because the state pays more to the federal government than it gets back.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday asked the Obama administration for $230 million in additional federal money for Medicaid, even though it is part of a state-aid economic stimulus law that the Republican governor has criticized as a "reckless spending spree."

Although the money supports state health care programs, it is not part of the big health care legislation that Pawlenty calls "Obamacare'' and vowed last week to resist.

The money will help care for low-income and elderly Medicaid patients and health care providers who participate in the joint federal and state program. Pawlenty had until Sept. 24 to make the request in order to get the money. He said Tuesday that accepting the money is consistent with principles he has laid out for the state.

Included in the package is about $500,000 to reimburse counties and the state for medical expenses for foster care children with disabilities.

Pawlenty has refused some funding under the federal health-care overhaul and last week ordered state agencies to get his approval before seeking grants from that source. Earlier, he declined to take $1.4 billion in expanded Medicaid coverage because, he said, it would cost the state about $188 million in matching funds.

Pawlenty criticized Congress after it approved the Medicaid funds in an emergency session last month and said he wasn't sure if he would accept the money, despite a projected $6 billion deficit for the next biennium.

"The federal government should not deficit spend to bail out states and special interest groups," he said then. "Minnesota balanced its budget without raising taxes and without relying on more federal money. The federal government's reckless spending spree must come to an end."

Pawlenty repeated those concerns this week in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius seeking the funds.

But he said Minnesota taxpayers deserve the money because they pay more to the federal government than they get back -- about 72 cents on the dollar -- and that the programs are consistent with long-held state principles.

Instead of a lump sum, the federal money will come as a higher match for state health care spending through June 2011. Earlier federal action that raised the match was to expire at the end of 2010.

Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253

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