April 5, 2013 11:36:43 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi lawmakers ended their three-month session Thursday, but they'll return to the Capitol in the next several weeks to handle a big piece of unfinished business: Keeping the Medicaid program alive beyond July 1.
Many state agencies have to be reauthorized every few years, and Medicaid was up for review this session. Bills to reauthorize and pay for Medicaid died amid partisan bickering over whether to expand the program under the health law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010. Democrats are for expansion; Republicans are against it.
The state's next budget year starts July 1, and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has to call lawmakers back into special session before then to keep Medicaid alive beyond that date -- with or without expansion.
On Thursday, he said he doesn't yet know when he'll call the special session.
"I think it's likely when we get an agreement," Bryant told reporters outside his Capitol office. "To make the taxpayers have to pay for the cost of a special session to come back here so that Democrats can kill Medicaid is not something I'm going to do."
House Democratic Leader Bobby Moak didn't sound like his party was backing down.
"Democrats will continue to work toward expansion of health care for everyone by pushing for a vote on the issue," Moak, of Bogue Chitto, said in a news release. "Democrats stand firm in the position that Mississippi needs the $10 (billion) to $15 billion dollar infusion into the program and the 9,000 jobs that will be created."