Panel of governors calls on Congress to pass medical assistance extension

Warning that the loss of a $25 billion extension of the Federal Medical Assistance Program could send states into a double dip recession, several governors called on Congress to pass the program.

The bi-partisan group of speakers said Wednesday that their state’s had build the money into their budgets after the extension had passed the House twice and Senate once.

“We expected and I think rightfully so that we were going to get this FMAP,” said Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat.

It was the worst time for state’s to be losing the money, she added.

“This is not the time to suddenly discover fiscal restraint, when we are in the depths of a recession and starting to recover from it,” said Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, speaking by conference call.

For Kansas, losing the medical assistance money would mean cuts to schools and the loss of about 3,600 teachers, he said.

“We have cut the waste that can be, cut we have cut beyond the waste and any more cuts will be beyond pain,” Parkinson warned.

California has the most to lose – some $1.8 billion according to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

“Like all states California has been hit very hard. Over the last three years we have been forced to make more than 60 billion in spending cuts,” he said. “The federal money is critical to preventing deeper pain and deeper job losses.”

He called his own budget cuts “absolutely devastating. They break my heart.”