Gov.-elect Nikki Haley will have more say than anticipated on how to deal with a $264 million deficit run up by state agencies that provide health care, welfare payments and other services for the poor and the state's prison system.
Tuesday, members of the state's Budget and Control Board delayed a vote on whether to acknowledge a $264 million deficit by the state's Department of Corrections, Department of Social Services and Department of Health and Human Services.
That means Gov.-elect Haley, who replaces outgoing Gov. Mark Sanford on the board next month, will have a say on how the deficits are handled when the board convenes for its January meeting.
Until then, the three agencies are twisting in the wind with no certainty their deficits will be acknowledged.
Without the acknowledgment, DHHS, which is facing a $228 million deficit, will stop payments in March to doctors and specialists who treat hundreds of thousands of the state's poor through the Medicaid program.
Because of swelling Medicaid rolls and budget cuts, the agency has already announced plans to cut back on hospice care, prescriptions for diabetics and more starting in February. Those cuts will happen regardless of whether the deficit is recognized to help save money.
Next month, the state's budget board will likely recognize the deficits and then decide on how to pay for the increased expenses expected between now and the end of the budget year in June. The state has reserves and cash totaling about $400 million that could help offset the deficit.