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Monday, March 28, 2011 - 12:03pm

Lawmakers Grapple with Second Budget Hole

State senators Monday presented their ideas for balancing next year’s state budget. It totals $18 billion.

Governor Nathan Deal's original budget proposal accounted for a nearly $1 billion hole for Medicaid costs. But there's a new funding gap on top of that to the tune of $300 million.

$270 million comes from rising costs in the health insurance plan for state employees. The rest of the hole is interest owed to the federal government for unemployment insurance, says Chairman of Senate Appropriations Republican Jack Hill.

"Those two items together total about $300 million that create a budget hole that has led both the house and senate to under-fund Medicaid in trying to fund this shortfall."

Hill says he’s uncomfortable with shifting money away from Medicaid, but the senate version of the budget also includes $23 million to hire more tax agents. That could bring in hundreds of millions in uncollected revenues, he says.

The senate’s budget also designates $10 million to add 10 drug courts in the state. That’s part of Governor Deal’s initiative to get non-violent offenders out of jail to save prison costs.