While putting the kibosh on Obamacare, Gov. Rick Scott continues to press for more corporate tax breaks
By K. Chandler
Two and a half years into his first term in public office, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s poll rating have plummeted to all time lows, due in large part to his refusal to accept over $54 million in federal funding stemming from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.
At the same time that Gov. Scott is deliberately forfeiting millions in much-needed health care grants for the poor, disabled and seniors by rejecting the Medicaid Expansion Plan, he is continuing to press to have the state’s corporate taxable income exemption on businesses expanded significantly.
The first year he was in office, he pushed the Florida Legislature to waive the first $25,000 in state corporate tax-able income for businesses, a significant increase from the previous exemption limit of $5,000.
A year later, he again lobbied the state legislature to raise the $25,000 exemption on state corporate taxable income to $50,000, exempting another 12,000 businesses in the process.
During the 2013 legislative session, he lobbied unsuccessfully for SB 562 & HB 401, which would have exempted the first $75,000 in state corporate taxable income up from the previous $50,000 level. Had the measure passed, it would have exempted an additional 2,000 businesses. Ultimately, 80 percent of Florida-based businesses would have been the beneficiaries of the state’s generous corporate income tax waiver, according to Scott’s own press office.
According to the Department of Revenue, Florida’s corporate income tax comprises nearly 8 percent or $2 billion of the general revenue the state brings in.
By contrast, in June of 2011, Gov. Scott turned down a federal grant of $2.1 million earmarked as the first payment on a $35 million health care grant that would have enabled elderly seniors and the disabled to transition from nursing homes back into residential settings within their own communities, over the course of five years.
Adhering to the Tea Party line, in 2012, Gov. Scott refused to abide by the US Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act. Subsequently, he has refused to implement the Medicaid Expansion Plan or the Navigator’s Program, set to launch Tues. Oct. 1st, and designed to assist citizens navigate various health insurance plans.
Is Scott’s rejection of the Medicaid Expansion Plan discriminatory?
By rejecting the Medicaid Expansion Plan, an estimated 1.2 million more low-income Floridians are excluded from gaining access to much needed healthcare services — including many with life-threatening conditions — that residents in other states are able to take advantage of.
As the plan takes off, 9 million more Americans are expected to be able to avail themselves of the new healthcare reform law enacted by the Obama Administration as the eligibility requirement for Medicaid has been raised to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
As part of the new Affordable Care Act, the federal government will assume 100 percent of the price tag until 2016, with federal coverage declining slightly each year until the year 2020 when the government will cover 90 percent of the cost, leaving each state 10 percent.
Also, there are currently 150 licensed navigators statewide cleared to help citizens select from 120 health care plans, but only two navigators are up and running from Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, prompting many to question whether efforts are afoot to obstruct this program from taking off.
This latest tactic on the part of the governor has rankled local leaders, including Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) who recently stated, “Governor Scott’s order restricting the activity of healthcare ‘navigators’ at 60 county health departments is bad for Florida families. Obamacare is the law of the land and Florida’s elected officials have a duty to come together to implement the law.
“We owe it to the people of Florida to provide them with the necessary information for them to make reasonable choices rather than being spiteful and bitter about Obamacare. Ultimately, the tactics being used by Governor Scott will prevent the poorest and weakest segments of our population from learning about the new options available to them, including potential financial assistance and subsidies. Denying people information, which has legal backing by the United States Supreme Court, is not in the spirit of this great state and country.”
Included among the federal funds rejected by Gov. Scott are:
· $8 million that would have gone to build community health centers;
· $2 million earmarked for children in hospice care;
· A partial $40 million grant aimed at promoting health and wellness in diabetic patients as well as others with chronic illnesses, and
· $1 million grant to be used to develop a healthcare exchange program to help individuals and families select insurance plans best suited for their circumstances.
“Other states are taking money; some of the money that Florida is turning down,” stated Jack McRay, a Florida-based lobbyist for AARP. “Florida tax-payers pay federal taxes as well, but Florida is not getting those tax dollars returned,” he noted.
Concurring, the Kaiser Family Foundation recently published the results of a study they conducted that found that nearly 50 percent of eligible minorities who could benefit from the Medicaid Expansion Plan reside in states that refuse to abide by the Affordable Care Act, with a stunning 60 percent being African Americans.
Will it be a case of history repeating itself?
It might be noted that Gov. Scott’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Jeb Bush (1999-2006) won legislative approval to eliminate the state’s intangible taxes on stocks, bonds and dividends, saving the state’s wealthiest 2 percent a whopping $19 billion during his administration.
Scarcely two years later, Florida – which was one of a handful of states that had been affected the worst by the mort-gage crisis, coupled with a steep drop in property taxes and corporate taxes — was bleeding red and forced to enact deep, painful spending cuts to education, healthcare and housing, in addition to the elimination of 1.400 state jobs and thousands of teaching jobs.
Perhaps summing it up best, Laura Goodhue (former head of CHAIN, a Jupiter-based non-profit advocacy group backing the Affordable Care Act, stated, “I think it’s a matter of priorities. There are many corporations in Florida that don’t pay taxes. There are a number of revenue opportunities the state is not taking advantage of. We’re either funding corporations, or we’re funding people.”