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Gov. Scott says he’ll call special session if legislators don’t act

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The clock is ticking on Florida’s 2015-2016 budget, and prospects of a compromise are getting dimmer.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) had not responded to a new proposal from the state agency responsible for Medicaid, submitted to the federal government for nearly $2.2 billion in health-care funding known as the Low Income Pool.

The proposal would have given lawmakers time to finish the state’s budget by the end of the fiscal year June 30.

Without a response from the federal government, Gov. Rick Scott is considering a Special Session to pass a continuation budget, which will help the state government remain in operation.

A continuation budget keeps current year funding levels for critical state services: education, law enforcement, children services, and transportation.

Scott released the following statement:

“While we are pushing the federal healthcare department to continue the LIP program for low income Floridians, it is clear that the federal government is not planning to move quickly enough to help develop the FY 15-16 budget by May 1st.

“I believe that a compromise can be reached that allows for a significant tax cut and historic per student education funding, while supporting critical state services if the House and the Senate begin working immediately on allocations that set aside adequate reserves to wait for the federal government’s decision on the LIP amendment.

“If the House and Senate fail to agree on allocations and begin a budget process that can be completed in an extended session, then I will call the House and Senate into a Special Session to pass a budget that continues current year funding levels for critical services like education, law enforcement, children services, and transportation.

“The continuation budget should be silent on any LIP funds as we wait on the federal government’s answer to our request that they continue assisting low income Floridians.

“If our state does not have a final budget at the completion of this Session, we will convene a Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding to examine the revenues of Florida hospitals, insurance and healthcare providers and how any taxpayer money contributes to the profits or losses of these institutions in Florida.

“A thoughtful analysis of how taxpayer money supports Florida hospitals, insurance and healthcare providers will guide us in a Special Session and aid in the development of the FY 16-17 budget. This analysis will also help us prepare for the loss of LIP funding if the federal government (CMS) decides to decline our amendment request before October.

“I remain committed to giving Florida families back more of the tax money they pay into government, and I hope that the Senate will agree to do this in order to grow our economy.  If they fail to cut taxes in this Legislative Session, it is clear that cutting taxes by more than $1 billion will become the top priority for next year’s Legislative Session when there is no longer any uncertainty around healthcare funding, which is already over 40 percent of our state’s $77 billion budget.”

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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