Attorney General Tim Fox has told the state Supreme Court that part of a voter-initiative petition to expand Medicaid in Montana is legally flawed, and should be rewritten to conform with the law.
Fox, a Republican, said Monday he agreed with opponents of proposed Initiative 170 who say it has a “fiscal note” that overstates how much federal money Montana gets if the measure is passed, and therefore is misleading to those who would sign a petition to qualify I-170 for the November ballot. The alleged overstatement of federal money is $100 million over the next four years.
In filings with the court, Fox’s deputy attorney general, Jon Bennion, asked the high court to order drafting of a new fiscal note – a move that could further delay efforts by I-170 supporters to get the measure on the ballot.
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, whose budget office prepared the fiscal note, is defending it, and asked the Supreme Court to allow him to file a “friend of the court” brief in support of keeping the petition unchanged.
Bullock’s chief legal counsel, Andrew Huff, argued in court papers Monday that the fiscal note is accurate, because it’s supposed to include all impacts of expanding Medicaid and its accompanying federal law, the Affordable Care Act.
I-170 seeks to expand Medicaid, the federal-state program that pays medical bills for the poor, to cover 70,000 low-income Montanans.
Under the ACA, if a state expands Medicaid to cover all citizens earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, the federal government will pay nearly all costs through 2016. The feds’ share of expansion costs declines slightly in the next four years, eventually dropping to 90 percent by 2020.
Opponents of I-170 says Bullock’s fiscal note improperly included an increase of federal money from a separate health-insurance program that covers children in low- and moderate-income families. That increase would occur whether or not I-170 passes, they say, and therefore shouldn’t be advertised as a benefit of I-170.