HARTFORD, CT — Lawmakers will return to the state Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 31 to override Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s veto of funding for the Medicare Savings Program.
In his veto message, Malloy called the bill “wishful thinking, double-counting, and pushing problems off into the future.”
Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, told a group of consumer advocates Wednesday that the General Assembly does have the votes to override the governor’s veto.
The House voted 130-3 and the Senate voted 32-1 on Jan. 8.
Abercrombie told advocates that they have to be honest about this. The override will only extend the current benefit levels until July 1.
In 2019, the program will fall short $130 million, if the same level of benefits are funded for more than 100,000 residents.
“I’ll be honest with you guys,” Abercrombie said. “I don’t know where we’re getting the money.”
Abercrombie said they are working to see if there’s any changes they can make to the program to lower the cost to the state, while maintaining the maximum level of benefits for the elderly and disabled who use it to help pay their Part B premiums and co-pays.
“There is no solution at this point for 2019, which means the cut that’s in the budget as of right now stands,” Abercrombie said.
However, there’s a desire from both parties to figure out how to pay for the program.
“We’re going to do the best that we can, but I’m not going to sit here today and say to you that the program is going to be fully funded because I have no idea how we’re going to do that,” Abercrombie said.
She said some states do an asset test for participants of this program and others charge $20 application fees. She said they need to be careful about how they construct the asset test.
She said at the end of the day if “people in this building believe in human services then they’ve got to be honest and say they’re willing to pay for it. And if you’re gonna pay for it you’ve got to talk about revenue.”
But raising revenue is not something Republican lawmakers are interested in discussing.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said she’s not willing yet to have a discussion about revenue in her attempt to close the $240 million state deficit.
“We’ve got tolls we can talk about. We’ve got marijuana we can talk about. We’ve got sugary tax we can talk about,” Abercrombie suggested Wednesday. “We can talk about increasing the sales tax.”
She said she knows none of those ideas are popular, but the reality is “human services is the easy target everytime we do a budget.”
She said the only way the state is going to be able to afford to take care of its neediest citizens is “if people become honest in this building.”
The line received a smattering of applause from the group.