Lawmakers have begun the process of estimating how much money the state can spend in 2016 (through the Revenue and Caseload Estimating Conference). They’ll hear a series of presentations over the next couple of weeks on projected revenues and spending so far this year. They use the information as they consider Gov. Gina Raimondo’s proposed budget.
Rhode Island Public Radio political analyst Scott MacKay says state financial advisors expect revenue to be up some $60 million dollars over earlier projections.
"What it will probably do is give lawmakers a chance at rolling back some of the cuts that Gov. Raimondo proposed," MacKay said. "I think you’re going to see a lot of pressure not to cut Medicaid payments to hospitals as deeply as she’s proposed."
House speaker Nicholas Mattielo has already expressed interest in rolling back the so-called “Taylor Swift Tax” proposal, which would tax luxury vacation homes worth more than one million dollars.
Medicaid outlook improved
Executive Office of Health and Human Service (EOHHS) officials told lawmakers that more federal dollars and lower than expected Medicaid enrollment have helped keep costs down.
Also, spending was lower than projected on costly drugs for hepatitis C.
Linda Katz, policy analyst with the Economic Progress Institute, says that’s good news. She’s part of the task force charged with cutting state Medicaid spending by $90 million dollars.
“That [number] was based on the expected Medicaid expenditures from last November," said Katz. "So now we know we’re actually running $14.3 million dollars, at least by EOHHS numbers, ahead.”
Katz says she hopes the money can be reinvested in Medicaid or used to offset some of the budget cuts the task force planned.