Here's this week's State Capitol Roundup courtesy of state Rep. Bob Mensch, R-147th District:
Ongoing Budget Talks Shed Light on State's Growing Budget Hole
The Commonwealth now seems to be in the midst of a serious revenue shortfall, according to testimony offered during a House Appropriations Committee hearing this week. Gov. Ed Rendell, who backed away from previous comments downplaying the hole in the existing budget, acknowledged that Pennsylvania's revenue shortfall may be as high as $2 billion by the end of the fiscal year. Despite new plans to avert a budget crisis, House Republicans continue to worry that the administration's efforts will be insufficient and that the Democrat majority in the House will attempt to pass the buck to Pennsylvanians in the form of tax hikes. It will be a top House Republican priority to fight any proposal that takes more money out of taxpayers' pockets.
MCare Legislation Blocked by House Democrats ... Again
On the final day of the 2007-08 legislative session, House Republicans again attempted to protect Pennsylvanians' access to health care services by bringing up legislation to extend the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund (MCARE) for a vote in the House. Despite the growing problem of local health care providers closing their practices and leaving the state, House Democrats again avoided the critical vote. The Rendell Administration opposes extending MCARE unless his costly, big-government health care plan is implemented. House Republicans are continuing their fight to ensure access to quality health care for every Pennsylvanian. For more on Republican health care reform efforts, visit HealthCareForPAFamilies.com
Pending Blues Insurance Merger Continues to Rile Advocates for Patients
Ongoing discussions regarding the potential merger of Highmark Inc. and Independence Blue Cross remain heated, as some lawmakers express concern over the merger's ramifications. The consolidation between the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia insurance kings would create the seventh largest insurer in the nation, covering roughly 53 percent of the insurance market in Pennsylvania. House Republicans have repeatedly said that the size of the new company could push smaller insurers out of the market, reducing competition and increasing prices for those seeking health care services in the state. A final decision on the consolidation is not expected until January at the earliest, 60 days after all legislative panels have submitted their recommendations.