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Governor Scott preparing for state government shutdown on July 1st

Roger Caldwell

Roger Caldwell

Governor Scott preparing for state government shutdown on July 1st

By Roger Caldwell

It is now the middle of May 2015, and lawmakers have suggested that they are making progress with the budget stalemate. The citizens in Florida and the media have received very little information concerning the Senate and the House’s progress. This is extremely ironic because Republicans hold a majority in both Houses, but they disagree to the point that they refuse to talk to each other.

Last week, Governor Scott ordered state agencies to draw up lists of critical services that must continue if the Florida Legislature cannot pass a budget by July 1. Scott put agency heads on notice. By Monday, May 25th, there should be a list of services that must continue when the fiscal year ends at midnight, June 30th. In the absence of a signed budget, agencies cannot spend money, and state employees would not be paid.

The state government was almost shutdown in 1992 when Lawton Chiles was governor, and Democrats were the party in power. Governor Chiles ordered a contingency plan, and state workers were grouped into two categories: essential and non-essential. This potential shutdown became a public relations nightmare because no one knew what they were doing, and it had never been done before.

Governor Scott now finds himself in the same situation, and he is placing the blame on Andy Gardiner, President of the Senate, and Florida Senate. In letters to the agencies, the governor says that the Senate has insisted on a modified Medicaid expansion as a pre-condition to budget talks, and he called their actions, “controversial and divisive.” If lawmakers are making progress, it is not being reflected in the governor’s letters to his agency heads.

“It is possible that Florida Senate President, Andy Gardiner, and the Florida Senate will not agree to any budget without the specific expansion of Medicaid (at a cost to state taxpayers of $5 billion over 10 years)” Scott wrote. “Therefore, we are requesting your agency prepare a list of critical state services our citizens cannot lose in the event Florida is forced into a government shutdown on July 1st.”

Many lawmakers think Scott is taking the wrong approach by playing hardball with the Senate when he should try to be a peace maker between the two Houses. By sounding the alarm so quickly, he is alienating the leaders of the Senate, and taking sides with the House of Representatives.

Governor Scott has also, because of the budget stalemate, put together a continuation budget which lawmakers, the media, and citizens have no idea what it means. This continuation budget outlines state budget priorities which identify 13 statewide critical needs that should be included in the budget.

They include covering operating deficits in the prison system and three other state agencies; paying for about 15,000 more students in the public school system; keeping up with the growth in Medicaid caseloads; maintaining transportation work program; and implementing Amendment 1, a water and land protection amendment voters approved in November.

The major problem with the governor’s continuation budget, and the 13 critical service needs, is that the Legislature develops the budget, and not the governor. Therefore, the governor has overstepped his constitutional responsibilities, and the House and the Senate are not obligated to support or follow the governor’s recommendations. The Florida Legislature is a dysfunctional mess, and not a positive approach to start the special session on June 1st.


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    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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