ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia lawmakers will convene Jan. 14 with a familiar theme: a budget shortfall explained mostly by an economy that's not keeping pace with rising health care costs.
The single biggest variable is the Medicaid insurance program for the poor, most of them children. Medicaid already promises to be several hundred million dollars short of what it will need to continue existing services and payment rates in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Even more pressing is an expiring hospital tax that yields about $650 million in state and federal cash. If that levy runs out with no replacement, the shortfall jumps to the neighborhood of $1 billion. Hospitals have presented Gov. Nathan Deal with a plan to extend the tax scheme with some modifications, but they could face some heavy lifting to get an increasingly conservative House and Senate on board.