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Scott proposes $77 billion budget with no expansion on Medicaid

Roger Caldwell

Roger Caldwell

Scott proposes $77 billion budget with no expansion on Medicaid

By Roger Caldwell

     Back in 2010, Governor Rick Scott proposed a budget that was signed with a total price tag of $69.1 billion. In 2014, our governor signed the largest budget in the history of the state at $77 billion, and in 2015, he is proposing another $77 billion budget. When our governor tells the residents of the state that he believes in small government, I wonder if that statement is true.

To begin with, state budgets are extremely complicated, and there are always losers and winners. The governor’s plan is merely a guide for the Legislature to approve a balanced budget by the end of the 60-day session. Many political experts argue that the time is too short to evaluate all the bills, and the legislators do not understand what they are voting on.

Nevertheless, everything is squeezed into this short period of time, and the lobbyists are spending millions of dollars to get their bills passed. This year the governor’s proposals include record funding for K-12 education, $673 million in tax cuts, money to clean up waterways and springs, and nearly $500 million for transportation projects in Northeast Florida. His spending plan also includes $100 million in new performance funding for state universities, and $23.5 million to allow students awarded Bright Futures scholarships to take classes over the summer.

Even though the state has a one billion dollar surplus, the governor wants cuts in an ever-shrinking work-force. Florida’s government has been operating at its lowest staffing levels in nearly two decades. The state’s population has grown since 1998 by four million, and there are less than 10,000 positions in the workforce since 2000. Cutting the state workforce makes no sense, and the service gets worse, because there are not enough employees to do the work.

In 2014 in the Florida Department of Corrections, there were more than 340 recorded deaths in the system. This was the deadliest year on record for Florida prison intimates, and the head of the Florida Department of Corrections blamed job cuts as the reason for many of the deaths. The prison chief is requesting 654 new positions, and the governor is only willing to provide her with 300 positions.

As the legislature begins to tackle these problems, Gov. Scott’s budget does not propose or advocate Medicaid expansion. There is a large coalition of business leaders, politicians, and healthcare companies, which think this is a terrible decision by our governor for the past two years. There is $50 billion in federal dollars that Gov. Scott is leaving in Washington, which could be utilized by the residents in Florida.

“Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation, and is lagging behind other states in bringing in Federal Medicaid dollars that have been set aside for states to use or lose,” says Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. It is up to all Floridians to demand a change in our legislature and governor’s thinking. Floridians are suffering and sick, because our governor is too proud to take free money from President Obama.

 

 

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