Around the Capitol, Gov. Tim Pawlenty‘s attempts through the years to fix general fund troubles by raiding the dedicated Health Care Acess Fund that pays for the state’s MinnesotaCare program are the stuff of legend.
And his unallotment plan for balancing the 2010-11 state budget carries on in that tradition. Buried in the long list of health and human services cuts unveiled yesterday is a $37.5 million cut to general fund expenditures for transitional MinnesotaCare services. "Eligible recipients will continue to receive six months of health care coverage under Transitional Minnesota Care," the governor’s unallotment release notes, "but all six months will be paid through the Health Care Access Fund (HCAF), until enrollment in GAMC is ended."
Not so fast, says Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Minneapolis) (pictured), the Senate’s HHS budget division chair and the Legislature’s leading advocate for health care programs. "I don’t believe he has the authority to do that under unallotment," she tells PIM. "Unallotment doesn’t say you can take dedicated funds and use them as general funds. Unallotment, by the dictionary definition, means you reduce spending. This is transferring money from one section of the budget to another. I don’t believe he has the authority, but someone would have to file a lawsuit, because in practice he can do it until someone says he can’t.
"There are several things on the list he can’t [legally] do, and that’s number one. It’s the largest and most blatant misuse of the unallotment process."
PIM’s Betsy Sundquist
will have has a more detailed story about Pawlenty’s HHS unallotments and the potential legal difficulties they pose in Thursday’s Capitol Report.