/ Modified may 4, 2013 6:53 a.m.

AZ Week: Little Movement on Medicaid

Breakthrough on Brewer's proposal could come in House, journalists say


Slight movement came this week in the Medicaid standoff between Gov. Jan Brewer and Republicans in control of the Legislature, but the two sides remain far apart, two state Capitol journalists said Friday.

Arizona Republic legislative reporter Mary Jo Pitzl said in an Arizona Week appearance Friday that Brewer has made a slight concession by allowing wording to be put into the expansion plan to keep Arizona Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood. That is to appease pro-life groups.

Arizona Capitol Times governor's office reporter Jeremy Duda said on Arizona Week that no other movement has been seen, despite Brewer's ongoing meetings with reluctant legislators to swing them to her side.

The Republican Brewer is pushing Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act as a way to provide health insurance for more poor Arizonans and to bring billions in federal dollars to the state. Opponents say they are worried that the federal money will be cut off after the state commits, leaving it with the bill and that all the spending adds to the federal debt.

All Democrats in the Senate and the House say they support the expansion, and a few Republicans have expressed support. But most Republicans have said they are opposed. Senate President Andy Biggs has led the way, calling his opposition unalterable and saying he will try keeping the measure from a floor vote.

He likely cannot prevent that and there are enough Republicans to pass it in the Senate, Pitzl and Duda said.

Thus, the emphasis shifts to the House, Pitzl said.

"I think a lot of attention is on the House, where there aren't the votes," she said. "I think they have perhaps seven Republicans to side with the 24 Democrats to get it out on a simple majority."

But first, House Speaker Andy Tobin must be convinced to put it to a vote. Tobin hasn't expressed opposition but has come up with what Pitzl said is a changing list of issues he wants handled as part of the bill. The list includes the unlikely idea of seeking a two-thirds majority vote for expansion, stronger language protecting taxpayers from footing the bill and other issues, Pitzl said.

There has been talk of taking the issue to the voters in a special election this fall. That would be reminiscent of Brewer's 2009 and 2010 battle with the Legislature over a temporary one-cent sales tax to support education during the state's deep spending cuts. It eventually went to the ballot when legislators wouldn't pass it on their own.

Brewer has said she wants the Legislature to approve the Medicaid expansion and isn't interested in taking it to the voters.

Duda said the governor's office has reiterated to him that going to the voters with Medicaid "is not on the table." But he said he could see a scenario in which that is how the governor gets what she wants, as in 2010 with the sales tax.

There is one certainty about Brewer's strategy with legislators, Duda said: "She's not going to let them leave without passing Medicaid."

The 2012 legislative session adjourned one year ago Friday, after both chambers completed work on the state budget and all other business. In this session, there is still no open talk of a budget, because it depends on the Medicaid expansion decision.

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