2016-17 HHS Budget Is Best Viewed As a Series of Missed Opportunities

Unlike last year, the 2016 regular session of the Florida Legislature adjourned on time, with House and Senate agreeing on a budget for the upcoming year.

In 2015, the disagreement over whether or not to accept what would have been a 100 percent federally funded extension of health coverage to as many as 800,000 uninsured, very low-income Floridians pushed the 2015 session into overtime.  This year, however, Medicaid expansion and its potential benefit to Florida's businesses, families and taxpayers were barely discussed. Instead, House and Senate entered the budget negotiation process with similar proposals and the intent to avoid another impasse.

The result, the 2016–17 General Appropriations Act, includes some small but important efforts to address Floridians' unmet health care and human services (HHS) needs.  In the larger picture, however, the 2016–17 HHS budget is best viewed as a series of missed opportunities that will create additional unmet need, particularly given the record amount of available general revenue.

> Read the report.

Behind Unemployment Numbers: Job Formation Continues Slowly

The number of jobs in Florida increased modestly in May, a continuation of a trend that began late in 2010. But the state has a long way to go before it regains the 900,000-plus jobs it lost due to the Great Recession.

Barring catastrophe, Florida will gain hundreds of thousands of jobs in coming years through natural growth as the economy strengthens.

A governor's role in job creation is limited, despite claims of responsibility for achieving Florida's modest job growth so far this year.

Although the Governor and legislative leaders insist that "government doesn't create jobs," they spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars each year, much of it going to large profitable corporations, hoping to create jobs.

Many economists doubt that incentives for companies in the hopes of creating jobs actually work.  The "net effect is to starve government of the resources it needs to finance the services it should be providing."

> Read the report.

New Medicaid Law Imperils Patients to Accommodate Plans

Although Florida has spent the last five years struggling with a flawed Medicaid managed care experiment that could not be expanded beyond a few counties, the passage of House Bills 7107 and 7109 during the 2011 legislative session nevertheless accelerates and intensifies the statewide privatization of Florida Medicaid.

The final legislation, while not as extreme as the proposal offered by the Florida Senate, imperils the health care of the three million Floridians who rely on Medicaid.

> Read the report.

2011 Legislative Session A Far Cry from the Golden Era

By Dr. Nelson Easterling, FCFEP Chair

The 2011 Legislative session is over.  As a citizen and an outside observer, I can only say that it may have been the worst I have witnessed.  The negative effects have the potential of creating a disaster for this state of epic proportions.

Many questions were created by this session.  The primary question I think we need to address is how it was allowed to happen.  Sure, we know that money had a lot to do with the elections of last fall.  And we know that the same money has had enormous influence over the issues and votes.  It is easy to blame the politicians and the special interests.  But what of our responsibility?  What were we doing?  What could we have done better?

> Read the report.

Florida in Critical Condition After Legislative Session

Already suffering from low rankings among the states on many assessments of well-being, Floridians now face harsh impacts from what is broadly considered the most radical legislative session in modern state history.

Generations of hard-won progressive policies were overturned, leading former Governor Bob Graham to lament legislative actions that “erase decades of investment and progress.”

The assault left almost no progressive cause unscathed.  More of the same is coming in the 2012 legislative session, the Governor and legislative leaders say.

> Read the report.

Job Losses Drove Medicaid Growth; Program Didn’t Cause Florida's Budget Woes

Legislators continue to identify Medicaid as the albatross hanging from its neck as it works through the budget-setting process for 2011-12.  But it is well established that Medicaid is neither spiraling out of control nor the cause of the state's budget woes.

Significant increases in Medicaid enrollment (and therefore Medicaid spending) and reductions in state revenue are simultaneous consequences of the same recession.

It is clear that reductions in income and lapses in health coverage associated with job loss are the key drivers in the growth of Florida Medicaid.

> Read the report.

Tax Giveaways to Corporations Deserve a Look on Tax Day

As Floridians file their federal income tax returns -- some marking Tax Day with objections to the level of taxation and government spending -- it is useful to remember all the different ways state government spends tax dollars.

Often overlooked are the many programs that give away tax money collected from Floridians to select corporations while the legislature cuts appropriations for vital services and considers giving more money for “economic development incentives".

Whether the "incentives" work to create jobs, or whether they merely reward corporations for activities they would have done anyway, is open to question.

Official state reports suggest that half or more of the companies receiving incentive funds would have expanded or relocated in Florida anyway, even without receiving tax dollars.

> Read the report.

Medicaid Holds Down Costs Better Than Private Insurance Plans

Florida House and Senate leaders have relentlessly attacked the Medicaid program for purported runaway spending growth, blaming the program for the state's budget woes and demanding relief from even the most basic federal standards.

But historical data reveals that, on a per-person basis, Medicaid has contained costs more effectively than private health insurance.

The underlying problem propelling the rise in both public and private health insurance costs is the growth in health care costs generally.  Although Medicaid has kept rising costs in check more effectively, its long-term sustainability nevertheless ultimately depends on controlling the growth in health care costs overall.

> Read the report.

Even as It Cuts Spending, Legislature Considers More Tax Cuts

Even as the Florida Senate and House of Representatives approve budgets balanced "on the backs of the poor, sick and public employees," legislators are proposing more special-interest tax breaks that lead to draconian budget cuts.

Each of these bills provides breaks to selected beneficiaries and reduces the revenue available to pay for vital state services like education, health care, law enforcement, and transportation.

> Read the report.

The State of the State of Florida: Near the Bottom of the Nation

As legislators continue action on issues affecting the well-being of Floridians, it's useful to measure the needs facing the state.

On many comparisons with other states on education, health and human services, and tax fairness, Florida ranks near the bottom of the nation.

The rankings paint a picture of a state with millions of residents needing jobs, services, and other supports from state government as they struggle to make ends meet.

> Read The State of the State of Florida.

Seeking Flexibility in Medicaid: Already Bends, No Need to Break

Despite requests for more flexibility in changing Medicaid, the state already has considerable flexibility.

What it doesn’t have -- and shouldn’t -- is the authority to evade the minimum requirements of the federal-state Medicaid partnership.

> Read the report.

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The Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy
579 East Call Street
Tallahassee Florida 32301
Phone: 850-325-6480
Email: info@fcfep.org

The mission of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy is to conduct independent research, develop new ideas, and advise policymakers on state fiscal and economic policy.  The Center pays particular attention to policy impacts on low- and moderate-income individuals, families and neighborhoods, workers, and small businesses.  The Center works to heighten public awareness of the need to adequately fund programs that improve opportunities, choices, quality of life outcomes, and the economic well-being of all Floridians.