No progress has been made to bridge the $4 billion-plus gap between the House and Senate’s proposed spending plans as the Legislature closes in on completing the sixth week of session.
But Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli didn’t seem worried that the impasse could throw the chambers into overtime. At least not yet.
Meanwhile, talk about why Low Income Pool negotiations broke down and who is responsible for the discord has ratcheted up with both the House and Governor’s Office suggesting that the Senate should not have sent state Sens. Rene Garcia and Garrett Richter to talk to officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Sen. Gardiner, meanwhile, defended the move, noting that before talking with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “everything was being filtered through third parties.”
“We need to understand where we are. That has been our intent from the Senate standpoint. We made it very clear we are not involved in negotiations,” Gardiner said.
“People want to try to point fingers. The reality is, again, we have known this for a year. … It is unfortunate that we are not all kind of working together to try to get the solution. But at least from the Senate’s standpoint, we are ready to go.”
When asked whether there was a drop-dead date where the Senate would have to move forward, Gardiner said “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The budget is the only bill the Legislature must pass when it meets in session. Unlike other bills there is a constitutionally mandated “cooling off” period, which means it must sit on lawmakers desks for 72 hours before it can be voted on.
The Legislature is slated to end its regular session on May 1.
Florida has received LIP funding for nine years; it was secured by former Gov. Jeb Bush and approved by the George W. Bush administration. Florida was told by the federal government last April that the money would expire this summer.
The Senate is committed to ensuring that the elimination or paring back of Medicaid supplemental funding called Low Income Pool won’t adversely impact hospitals. Gardiner said one options for the state would be to expand Medicaid as outlined under the federal healthcare law.
Another option would be for the state to approve the Senate’s Medicaid expansion proposal called FHIX. And yet another option would be to backfill the deficit caused by the elimination or scaling back of the Low Income Pool program with general revenue dollars.
When asked if money reserved for tax cuts could be used to help plug the budget hole Gardiner said “I think everything is on the table.”
The House has rejected the idea of expanding Medicaid or implementing the Senate’s proposed FHIX plan. The governor on Monday joined ranks with the House in opposing a Medicaid expansion.
“I’m not going to sit here and go back and forth. We are all adults here. We are not going to war,” Gardiner said, referencing House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran’s speech where he committed to not “dance with the Senate” on Medicaid expansion and committed to waging war, instead.
“This is a policy debate. This is a policy discussion. And we look forward to having the dialogue. We are not going to point fingers. At the end of the day, it’s not about who wins and loses.”