A Wyoming legislative committee voted 7 to 5 on Wednesday to reject Governor Matt Mead's budget request for Medicaid expansion.

"I want to ask my good colleagues on the Joint Appropriations Committee, 'What are you doing?'" said House Minority Leader Mary Throne, D-Cheyenne. "This is a budget session and our first obligation is to not spend a single state dollar that does not need to be spent."

The Cowboy State is facing an estimated $617 million budget shortfall. Medicaid expansion would bring an estimated $268 million to the state and would cover more than 20,000 low-income residents.

"I believe that turning away dollars that are earmarked for Wyoming, sending them back to Washington, D.C. for distribution to other states, is not a wise economic move for us," said Senator Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne. "We could use that $268 million to cover our shortfall in the near term."

Senator Pappas co-sponsored a bill to expand Medicaid last year. He believes the expansion is not only the right thing, it's what the people of Wyoming want.

"My constituents are looking for us to pass a Medicaid expansion," said Senator Pappas. "They understand the need for healthy citizens, to protect our low-income wage earners in the state and to bring those dollars that are rightly ours."

"I would urge my colleagues to listen to people in Wyoming. Listen to our county commissioners. Listen to our healthcare community. Listen to the business community," said Representative Throne. "I can't go anywhere in Cheyenne without everyone telling me, 'What is wrong with the Legislature that they don't adopt Medicaid?'"

Lawmakers could still consider expanding Medicaid either through a budget amendment or a separate bill.