The Note: Budgeting Time

In Mississippi, "In the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, Medicaid is projected to cost $268 million more than the state budgeted. Officials are now warning that the program will run out of money by the end of this month unless the legislature passes an emergency appropriation. To open up funds for Medicaid, the state has slashed road construction and may delay plans to raise the salaries of public-school teachers who earn an average of about $35,000 a year."

And that has put Haley Barbour in a pickle, as it has for just about every GOP governor in any state with significant Medicaid spending. Phil Bredesen's TennCare struggles get a cameo.

The news these past few days have probably been like manna from heaven for Robert Pear.

He and Carl Hulse report this morning that "President Bush's budget would more than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using government health care . . ." LINK

"The president would increase the co-payment for a month's supply of a prescription drug to $15, from the current $7. The co-payment and the $250 'user fee' would apply mainly to veterans in lower-priority categories, who have higher incomes and do not have service-related disabilities. The government had no immediate estimate of how many veterans would be affected if the user fee and co-payment proposals were adopted. But veterans' groups said that hundreds of thousands of people would end up paying more and that many would be affected by both changes. The proposals to increase charges to veterans face stiff opposition from veterans organizations, Democratic members of Congress and some Republicans."

Saturday, Pear wrote of cuts to obesity programs, the CDC and more. LINK

Sunday, he tapped his Ag sources. LINK

Social Security:

Howard Fineman in Newseek gets at the legislative strategy that is still in formation, writing about President Bush's political gamble and concluding thusly:

" . . . Bush's GOP allies are moving cautiously. They won't even try, Hill sources tell NEWSWEEK, to unify behind a particular bill until the fall -- hoping to lure Democrats to make a counterproposal first. That will leave plenty of time for more talk, more campaigning, more blogging -- and rock concerts." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein writes that money and trust are two ingredients that President Bush needs more of in abundance if he wants to successfully sell his Social Security plan, even despite his success in the past of uniting Republicans behind a common agenda. LINK

Joe Klein of Time, who memorably opined after a Democratic candidates debate last year that the Democrats were the "stupidest $@#(ing party" he'd ever seen, read about, or imagined, castigates the Democrats for heckling during SOTU and being generally obstructionist on Medicare and Social Security reform. LINK

The New York Times' Nicholas Confessore wrote Sunday on the prospects for Social Security given President Bush's prediliction for breaking the rules (of politics, that is). LINK

USA Today's Oren Dorell looks at the ad war accompanying President Bush's Social Security plan, and breaks down the groups with spots on the air supporting the overhaul, and those opposing it. LINK

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