2016-17 HHS Budget Is Best Viewed As a Series of Missed Opportunities | Print |  E-mail
March 2016

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.

Recurring Tax Cuts Will Reduce Investments for Years to Come | Print |  E-mail
February 2016

A key issue to be resolved in the remaining weeks of the legislative session is the size and composition of tax cuts—and how much they will reduce revenue in future years for investing in state services.

The final tax cut package eventually negotiated between the Senate and the House and signed by the Governor has ramifications beyond the 2016-17 fiscal year, when the cuts will go into effect. The size of any recurring tax cut is compounded year after year. A $10 million cut in taxes one year will also reduce revenues by that amount in the next year, and the one after that.

Thus the decisions made about tax cuts in this legislative session will impact the amount available for appropriations to meet state needs not only this year, but also future years. Governor Scott's proposals would cut $1 billion from the budget year after year and the House budget almost $1 billion over the next three years. The Senate tax cuts being considered would take a smaller bite, the amount depending on how much are recurring reductions and how much nonrecurring.

A tax cut is a tradeoff; corporations benefit when their taxes are cut, but at the expense of Floridians who rely on state support for their well-being.

> Read the report.

Defend, Not Defund: Proposal to Defund Planned Parenthood Would Work Against State Priorities | Print |  E-mail
February 2016

Planned Parenthood has long been one of the state's anchors with respect to the provision of health care and public health services to Floridians—particularly low-income and underserved women. Planned Parenthood currently operates 22 centers throughout the state and, in 2014, served nearly 70,000 Floridians.

Nevertheless, a unique set of instructions tucked into the Florida House's version of the state's 2016-17 budget would prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving any funds that pass through the state treasury.

Although such a prohibition pertains to only a minuscule fraction of the state budget, it would nevertheless thwart longstanding state priorities, undermine the provision of critically needed services to underserved Floridians, cost Florida and Floridians far more than it would save, and likely prove to be an unlawful and wasteful effort.

> Read the report.

Savings in Florida's Medicaid Program More Than Sufficient to Extend Services | Print |  E-mail
February 2016

The governor and majority leadership in the Florida House have persistently but unfairly attacked Medicaid—the health coverage safety net—for purportedly swallowing the state budget.  These claims have in turn been used repeatedly to justify rejection of proposals to extend health coverage to more than 800,000 uninsured Florida adults in or near poverty, despite the fact that the portion of the cost funded by already-paid federal tax dollars will never fall below 90 percent.

The fact is, not only has the percentage of and growth in state general revenue (discretionary) funding dedicated to Florida's Medicaid program been continuously overstated by critics, the federal share of Medicaid costs paid has also been continuously increasing.

More specifically, under the current Medicaid program, increases in Florida's Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) will save Florida more than $2 billion state dollars over the 8-year period from 2011-12 through 2019-20. These savings far exceed the state's share of the cost of Medicaid expansion. In other words, the expansion has already been fully funded.

Furthermore, these increased FMAP rates are the result of Floridians' incomes slipping relative to those of the U.S. as a whole, as that comparison is the basis for the FMAP calculation. Uninsured, low-income adults—those affected most by the factors that have generated the state savings—are also the ones who continue to suffer as a result of the legislature's consistent refusal to reinvest those savings to provide coverage most will otherwise be unable to obtain.

> Read the report.

Scott Budget: Tax Cuts Consume Growth Dollars, Leaving Little for Investments in State Services | Print |  E-mail
January 2016

Governor Rick Scott's budget proposal for the 2016-17 fiscal year is notable for one stark fact: It proposes spending more than twice as much money from general revenue growth on tax cuts than on increasing funding for vital state services.

Of the state's more than $1.3 billion increase in general revenue from the current fiscal year to 2016-17, Scott proposes to use more than $1 billion of it on tax cuts - $920.1 million of it in permanent recurring general revenues.  He would use just $390 million on net new general revenue appropriations for education, health care, mental health, corrections, child welfare and all other areas funded by general revenue combined.

General revenue will grow 4.7 percent from 2015-16 to 2016-17, while the Governor's budget would increase general revenue appropriations by just 1.35 percent.

To be sure, the Governor's budget would increase general revenue expenditures in some areas of state government. But most of the increases are offset by reductions elsewhere through cuts to state services that have already experienced cuts in previous years. 

His spending plan fails to fund the level of services already provided through state general revenue dollars. Scott would spend $29.3 billion in total general revenue—permanent recurring dollars plus one-time nonrecurring money—while at least $30.9 billion is necessary to fund state operations under current law, state economists say.

> Read the report.

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