Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Bill Day’s latest: The widening budget gap over Medicaid expansion

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Both the Florida House and Senate released spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year, providing funding for everything from education and transportation to the newly passed Amendment 1 land-conservation measure.

Beyond that, however, the two budgets could not be further apart; almost $5 billion, to be exact.

Bill Day’s latest takes aim at this fiscal chasm, which rests on a single issue – Medicaid expansion.

The Senate proposal includes a portion of the $50 billion in federal money for expanding the Medicaid program to uninsured Floridians; the House version, once again, does not touch it.

It seems the Legislature is headed toward a head-to-head budget battle.

For two years, House Republicans have steadfastly refused to accept federal funding, which would have provided basic health insurance for around 1 million uninsured Floridians.

This year, Washington, D.C., is striking back, by assessing what many see as a punitive penalty for Florida’s inflexibility. They have been threatening to revoke the annual $1.3 billion Low-Income Pool, used to fund hospitals attending to uninsured patients.

The loss of LIP is why Senate Republicans are pushing a Medicaid expansion plan, which uses federal money to buy private health insurance.

The House, which submitted its $76.2 billion budget on Friday, does not even touch the subject.

If LIP money indeed vanishes, it could be the incentive essential to a final budget deal.

Another bargaining chip is Gov. Rick Scott, who proposed $673 million in tax cuts, as well as increased per student spending, in his own budget proposal two months ago.

This leaves the House with a dreadful choice: either expand Medicaid to help citizens under Obamacare or face deficits that make GOP tax cuts near impossible.

Will calls from the Senate to “show we care” fall on deaf ears in the House?

Day gives us his take, and it does not look promising.

 BILL DAY BUDGET CHASM

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 [email protected] and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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