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$134 million Medicaid budget gap remains unplugged

Wisconsin's $134 million budget gap in Medicaid for this year, which Gov. Scott Walker's original budget repair bill would have plugged, remains under the version of the bill Walker signed.

Wisconsin's $134 million budget gap in Medicaid for this year, which Gov. Scott Walker's original budget repair bill would have plugged, remains under the version of the bill Walker signed.

"We need to get that fixed," said Dennis Smith, secretary of the state Department of Health Services. "The alternative is we run out of money and providers don't get paid."

The deficit is for the fiscal year ending June 30. A $22 million gap in the Department of Correction also remains, according to a report last week by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

The state Department of Administration is discussing a plan to fill the gaps, which could involve an upcoming bill in the Legislature, said Seth Boffeli, health department spokesman.

The administration department "is reviewing all options," spokeswoman Carla Vigue said.

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Appropriations to address the deficits were removed from the bill when it was approved this month by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Walker, a Republican.

Other financial aspects of the bill that were stripped include: the state's debt restructuring plan, estimated to save $165 million this fiscal year; a budget management fix that would cost $79 million; spending $19.5 million to address the corrections shortfall; and a change in low-income tax credits for the poor (known as the Earned Income Tax Credit) that would replace $37 million in state spending with $37 million in federal funds.

Democrats are challenging the bill's approval in court.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Wisconsin State Journal

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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