President Barack Obama lavished Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear with praise three months ago, calling him “a man possessed” for Beshear’s zeal in pushing provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in his conservative, southern state. But that may be about to change.
Kentucky’s legislature just defunded state implementation of federal health reform, derisively nicknamed “ObamaCare” by opponents in a struggle serving as the focal point for most if not all political observers ahead of midterm elections.
“Apparently Democrats can read polls that show how unpopular ObamaCare is with voters,” said state Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican from the north-central part of the Bluegrass State.
The budget bill prohibiting use of state funds for the ACA passed both chambers of the legislature by wide margins, 89-11 in the Democratic House and 37-1 in the Republican Senate. Beshear’s opportunity to line-item veto any part of the budget expired without him taking action on this. The two-year state budget now says the following: “The Governor is expressly prohibited from expending any General Fund resources on any expenditure directly or indirectly associated with the Health Benefit Exchange.” The Affordable Care Act prohibits the use of federal funds for state run exchanges after January 1, 2015.
Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo is defiant, though he hasn’t explained his position other than to say he wanted to avoid a lengthy debate. He told WFPL radio in Louisville simply, “We didn’t feel like that this language would be egregious to the governor in moving forward.”
Two lawsuits have been filed in state court to clarify the controversy and await Supreme Court hearings. Majority Floor Leader Thayer pointed out that legislative approval of Beshear’s federal health reform advocacy was never granted as state law requires in KRS 12.028.
“Senate Republicans felt strongly that no state dollars should be appropriated to fund ObamaCare. Its implementation has never been approved by the General Assembly and has been unilaterally implemented via executive order by Governor Beshear,” Thayer said. “We took a strong stand on this in the budget process and, fortunately, we prevailed on behalf of Kentucky taxpayers.”
Governor Beshear has made no public comments about this new development.