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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ind. Gov't. - Governor rejects letting legislature review welfare privatization deal

Lesley Stedman Weidenbener of the Louisville Courier Journal reports today on the pending billion dollar FSSA contract. Earlier stories may be located by typing "FSSA" in the ILB search box, including this one from Aug. 20th and this one from June 17th. Some quotes from today's story:

Gov. Mitch Daniels said yesterday that he won't give lawmakers a chance to review or approve a proposed $1 billion contract to let a private company handle eligibility for the state's welfare system.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have called for such a review. * * *

But Daniels said yesterday "if we decide -- as we may -- that this is the best way forward, I'm going to move right away."

A review panel that Daniels appointed has negotiated a proposed 10-year contract with a private partnership of companies led by IBM to take over intake services for the state's Medicaid, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal food-stamp program, is evaluating the contract and the state review panel is expected to make a final recommendation to the governor about whether to move forward with it in the coming weeks.

"The current system is indefensible," Daniels said yesterday. "It is wasting millions of tax dollars. It's been riddled with fraud. It has the worst welfare-to-work record in America. It has high error rates." * * *

House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, has said repeatedly the chamber intends to exercise whatever oversight it can over the eligibility contract and other attempts to privatize parts of state government.

"We'd like the sun to shine in on those proposals," Bauer said Tuesday, when lawmakers met to organize for their 2007 session. "We'd like to see what they are and what they do to the people affected."

Later, Bauer said that while the governor has the authority to sign contracts, such as the one for eligibility services, the legislature funds them. He said Democrats weren't necessarily shutting the door on such proposals but simply want to have hearings on them.

Lawmakers, though, won't reconvene until January, and Daniels seemed determined to move ahead. He said the executive branch -- not the legislative branch -- is charged with administering government.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 23, 2006 09:42 AM
Posted to Indiana Government