Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) on Thursday stressed his state -- and most others -- would have to cut education spending, release inmates, impose new taxes and slash welfare programs in order to pay for Democrats' proposed healthcare reforms.

Their legislation -- which authorizes a manifest increase in Medicaid spending -- would fall disproportionately on state governments that have struggled to balance their budgets amid this year's economic slowdown, the governor said.

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"Every state is cutting [this and last year's] budgets," Barbour told reporters at a press conference this afternoon, predicting the Medicaid changes in particular would cost his state about $1.6 billion over the first six years.

"I don't think you should expand Medicaid at all as part of the healthcare bill unless the federal government pays for it," he added.
 
Barbour is among a growing contingent of governors from both parties who are keeping a watchful eye on the Senate's healthcare debate. While many support the notion of healthcare reform -- and some support the bill itself -- all seem to fear the legislation's impact on their respective states' finances.

State legislatures had to close billions in budget gaps last year, as their constitutions do not permit them to spend into the red as the federal government does. That meant many governors and local lawmakers had to slash spending in areas like education and law enforcement, and to significantly reduce their safety-net welfare programs, to stay solvent.

Those gaps are expected to grow in future fiscal years, especially as stimulus spending winds down. But Barbour assured states' financial situations would worsen gravely if lawmakers also had to devote billions of money to increased Medicaid spending.

"The Democrats are just as concerned," Barbour insisted at the press conference. "Voters are beginning to understand this is not only bad policy, it's going to raise state taxes."