Lawyers say Walker can act on Medicaid without the legislature

At a press conference in the Capitol, March 17, 2015, Gov. Bill Walker, I-Alaska, announces the introduction of a bill that would overhaul and expand Medicaid. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
At a press conference in the Capitol, March 17, 2015, Gov. Bill Walker, I-Alaska, announced the introduction of a bill that would overhaul and expand Medicaid. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Gov. Bill Walker likely has the authority to expand Medicaid without legislative approval, according to two legal opinions written last month. One opinion, from the legislature’s legal services department, says the state’s health department can “cooperate with the federal government” and accept money for things like Medicaid.

The opinion also points out it is probably unconstitutional for lawmakers to include a line in the budget blocking Walker from receiving Medicaid expansion funds. That’s because a section of the state constitution says “bills for appropriation shall be confined to appropriations.”

The memo was written in response to a question from House minority leader Chris Tuck. In a separate opinion, the state law department makes a similar argument.

In an email, a spokesperson for Walker says he will evaluate whether to expand Medicaid on his own after the legislative session.

 

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