When A $93.4 Million Spending Increase Is “Just Something That Happens”


This morning I tuned into the floor session in the North Dakota House to watch the debate of HB1012, the Department of Health and Human Services budget. I had thought a part of that bill would be the state’s Medicaid expansion, but apparently that portion of the bill has been peeled off for an up or down vote on its own (a good sign).

But I did catch these comments from Rep. Chet Pollert who carried the bill to the floor. He’s describing a $93.4 million increase in FMAP spending (Federal Medical Assistance Percentages), which results because North Dakota’s economy is improving. Because personal incomes in North Dakota are growing, and because the economy is strong, the federal government is pulling out some of their funding.

And the state is making that funding up, to the tune of $93.4 million. Which is “just something that happens,” according to Rep. Pollert.

I wondered, in a post at the beginning of the session, why in the world North Dakota, with one of the strongest economies in the nation, would need a 25% expansion in the human services budget (a big chunk of which are the funds Rep. Pollert is talking about) for the coming biennium. This “just something that happens” stuff is why.

When times are bad, we spend more on human services. And when times are good…we spend more on human services. It’s almost automated, and it all goes unquestioned by our elected leaders.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Lianne

    Rob, I don’t know either, but doesn’t it also include funding for nrsing homes? I listened to it also. didn’t get to see the green sheet. don’t know that I would be able to decifer it all, but funding and care of our elderly who are moved to nursing homes, often against their will, should not be underfunded. Guess, in YOUR spare time, that is something you could check for us ;-)

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      That sounds like an argument for deregulating nursing homes, not increasing spending.

      • Lianne

        I tend to agree, but the federal government dictates how many steps a nurse can take during a shift (that may be a slight exageration), but they do dictate nearly every step. Deregulation would have to come from them, wouldn’t it? That will never happen because they dictate that a broken spirit is worse thana broken leg and therefore the restraint issue alone would stop any deregulation, in my very unofficial opinion.

        • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

          The state has a ton of regulations in the nursing home industry. An operator actually has to get state permission to open up a nursing home in an undeserved market.

          You literally have to wait for someone to die to get your family member in a nursing home in GF. Otherwise they get shipped out to Northwood. (usually)

          • Lianne

            I understand the state has ‘tons’ of regulations, I just don’t know if the deregulation of which Rob wrote about is state controlled or under fed regs. btw, I think waiting for a bed is state-wide. Of course, after having worked in nursing homes in the 60’s and in the first decade of 2000, I would take the 60’s any day.

  • Game

    The Appropriations Human Resources sub-committee has spent hundreds of man hours going through the budget and amending it. That group is dominated by republicans, and they work very hard. To say that any part of the budget goes by “unquestioned” is a very ignorant statement.

    Regarding FMAP changes, you should be championing that. It means the Federal Government which is broke, will be paying less, and the state will be paying more. It is the Federal Government saying that if the state has money, the Federal taxpayers are not going to bail you out. It is a change in the cost sharing amount, not an increase in coverage.

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      If anyone said “hey, maybe we don’t need to replace these departing federal dollars” I haven’t heard it. And I follow this process very, very closely.

      And why should I be happy about state appropriations going up to replace spending the feds don’t deem necessary any more?

      • Game

        I am sure it has been said in some off campus Republican Caucus meeting, but luckily, the leadership of the GOP is not stupid enough to think that cutting spending for nursing homes and for poor people’s health insurance is a good policy in North Dakota (the two primary recipients of Medicaid in North Dakota)

        Even in a good economy people are still getting old and going into an nursing home. Because of the economy it is costing more to hire people to provide the services to people in nursing homes and in other health care type facilities.

        I have not seen the overall score of what the House is approving but the original budget of the Gov. was only a 4.57% increase in the size of the human service budget. Yes it is more state money, but don’t imply it is a massive increase in the size human service budget.

        • Lianne

          game, is this a witnessed discussion or an assumed discussion?

          “I am sure it has been said in some off campus Republican Caucus meeting”

  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    Clearly the people in the state legislature are unqualified for that job.

  • Captjohn

    Legislators are told and I tend to believe that the vast majority of rules and regs nursing homes operate under are driven by fed rules.
    I have a good friend who is a nusing home administrator her in Florida and she has confirmed that scenario. Of course North Dakota may have additional rules but I doubt that.
    Whenever state rules are proposed they go before the interim Legislative Rules Committee. If the rules are to onerous or can be challenged as unnecessary because the Feds don’t require them the industry appears in protest and those rules are either suspended,rewritten or can be challenged in court. If a court challenge occurs the state regulators usually loose.
    The state match is driven by a federal formula. Thus the catch 22 Rob is upset about.
    I have sympathy for Rob’s position but I do not see an option for the legislature.
    That is why the proposed study on dependence on federal dollars is so important. I don’t think the study will change much in the short term. It is a good starting point.
    We need to know when it is economically feasible to tell the Feds to stuff it.