With a vast majority of news coverage appropriately being focused on wildfires burning across Colorado throughout the past couple of weeks, coverage of a statement released by Governor John Hickenlooper in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision has largely been ignored.
Our reading of a press release put out by the Governor on June 28, 2012 leads us to believe that the Governor has every intention of allowing Medicaid expansion to continue consuming every other function of state government, including higher education.
In contrast to Hickenlooper, reform-minded governors around the country are apprehensively cheering one part of the edict from the high court insofar as it makes clear that the federal government does not have the power under the Constitution to coerce the states in to action ala Medicaid expansion.
While governors such as Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Scott of Florida have announced that they do not intend to allow Medicaid expansion to explode in their respective states — because they simply can’t afford it — Colorado’s governor says: “…we will continue to operate within the law’s framework and with the General Assembly while making state-level decisions that work for everybody…”
Does Governor Hickenlooper understand that, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, expanding Colorado’s already generous Medicaid program could cost in the neighborhood of $470 million each year?
Budget experts from both sides of the aisle tend to concede that expanded Medicaid eligibility is the 800 pound gorilla in Colorado’s budget living room. With many colleges and universities around Colorado hiking tuition in the double digits each year to offset cuts in general fund appropriations, we wonder how exactly Governor Hickenlooper plans to pay for the state’s share of this massive entitlement expansion without further eroding access to higher education for Coloradans.
One governor that actually understands how Medicaid expansion impacts higher education is neighboring Governor Dave Heineman of Nebraska. In a statement last week, Governor Heineman said: “If this unfunded Medicaid expansion is implemented, state aid to education and funding for the University of Nebraska will be cut or taxes will be increased. If some state senators want to increase taxes or cut education funding, I will oppose them.”
While it is possible that this problem will somehow fix itself without any executive action (like everything else that’s happened during the Hickenlooper administration), we doubt it. The numbers are simply too large and the stakes are just that high. We hope members of the Colorado General Assembly will hold the Governor’s feet to the fire on this issue and demand action on behalf of Colorado taxpayers.