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.

TABOR Would Endanger Services

The so-called “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” passed by the Florida Senate would lead to cuts in essential state services, an analysis shows.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the proposed constitutional amendment would require "massive reductions in vital services that residents want and need -- education, health care, public safety, roads, environmental protection, and others."

> Read the CBPP report.

Tax System Should Be Evaluated Based on Services the State Needs

In the wake of the Florida Senate’s approval of a state revenue limitation proposal, FCFEP Chair Nelson Easterling says the services the state needs should be the starting point in determining the adequacy of a tax system.

The real issue in tax adequacy is the role of government and what services the state needs to provide to meet its responsibilities, he says.

> Read the Chair’s Perspective.

Mismanaging Managed Care: Senate Medicaid Proposal Risks Even More Than Before

The proposal for overhauling Florida Medicaid released through the Senate Budget Committee on Health and Human Services Appropriations calls for building on and expanding key aspects of the flawed Medicaid Reform Pilot.

It also borrows from the House's more expansive 2010 proposal to turn most Medicaid-related decisions entirely over to managed care plans.

One specific feature of the bill - installation of a hard cap on total Medicaid spending - likely makes the Senate proposal one of the biggest threats to Medicaid recipients ever seriously debated in the legislature.

> Read the report.

Keeping and Modernizing the Corporate Income Tax Would Best Serve Florida

Governor Rick Scott's proposal to cut corporate income taxes by $1.5 billion over the next two years would force deep budget cuts for services provided to millions of Floridians.

Meanwhile, profitable corporations, many of them multistate operations headquartered outside of Florida, would pay less for the benefits they receive from the state's education system, its transportation and infrastructure, and other services like law enforcement and the judicial system.

Slashing the corporate income tax would do little, if anything, to improve an already business-friendly tax structure or to create jobs.  But it would do much to decrease the level of services necessary to support a decent quality of life, which is the foundation of economic development.

> Read the report.

Tax Modernization Would Produce Revenue for Critical State Needs

Modernizing Florida's tax structure would (1) close the state's budget gap, (2) prevent the most severe cuts in essential services like education and health care, (3) increase fairness, and (4) fix the state's long-term structural budget deficit.

Meanwhile, even after several years of damaging budget cuts, the governor and legislature promise additional reductions in services in order to balance the state budget. But they have stated they will not consider any tax reform actions in 2011 that would result in increased revenue.

By acting to implement tax modernization proposals considered in Florida for years, the state could raise more than $5 billion each year to pay for services needed for a decent quality of life.

> Read the report.

Cutting "Optional" Services Would Hurt More Than Help

Any Medicaid service cuts are unlikely to yield significant savings in state general revenue in the short term, as there is little to cut without reaching the bare federal minimum or causing significant harm to the Floridians who must rely on Medicaid.

Beyond the short term, such cuts will cost the state much more than they save.

> Read the report.

FCFEP Chair Says Tax System Should Serve Citizen/Consumer

 Dr. Nelson Easterling writes that the citizen/consumer is the sovereign, not corporations.

 > Read the Chair's Perspective.

Florida's Budget Gap

> View a PowerPoint on closing Florida's budget gap.

Budget Proposal Equates to Cuts in Health and Human Services

Strictly speaking, Governor Rick Scott did not recommend a reduction in spending for health and human services for 2011-12.  Total HHS spending and Medicaid spending under the Scott proposal would in fact rise next year.

But in the sense that the proposed funding level for Medicaid in 2011-12 would not meet the state's currently projected need, the recommendations amount to a $1.2 billion cut.

For 2012-13, the Governor proposes to install an arbitrary cap on Medicaid spending that does not factor in inflation or the true cost of providing care.

Reduced access and quality of care for the most vulnerable Floridians who must depend on Medicaid will inevitably result.

> Read the report.

The Facts About Florida Taxes: Among the Lowest in the Nation

The current emphasis in Tallahassee on cutting state taxes obscures important facts about Florida's tax system and about choices available to balance the budget and meet the needs of Floridians.

Florida is a low-tax state.  In addition, the amount paid by corporations relative to total income in Florida is shrinking.  Moderate- and low-income taxpayers are paying a greater share of the tax load.

Despite a budget gap that exceeds $4 billion, Florida's leaders are not considering a balanced approach including closing tax loopholes to fix the budget shortfall.

Closing loopholes to raise revenues for state needs is an alternative to the path of tax and spending cuts being taken by political leaders this year.  Reforming the tax structure would minimize cuts to services and make the tax system more fair.

> 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.