Legislative leaders say budget impasse means 2015 session won’t end on time

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Given that neither the House nor Senate are agreeing to back off their positions on health care legislative leaders in the House and Senate conceded on Wednesday that the Legislature will not be able to pass a budget by May 1, the last day of the the 2015 session.

However there hasn’t been a decision on how to handle the imminent overtime, or whether the Legislature should meet in a special session or just extend the current session that is underway. Health care is the reason the legislative session will head into overtime, The House and Senate have each proposed budgets but they are more than $4 billion apart.

The Senate includes $4 billion between the continuation of Medicaid supplemental payments called Low Income Pool dollars–which are set to expire this summer– and expansion of Medicaid under the federal health care law, whereas the House budget doesn’t contain the money.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Lee told reporters on Wednesday that it may make more sense for lawmakers to leave Tallahassee and return to craft a budget after the state gets information from the federal government on how much money–if any–LIP money the state can expect to receive. The state has been negotiating with the federal government to continue LIP funding.

“We can’t conference with concepts, we need numbers,” Lee said adding that it does no good for the state to plan for a session until those figures are forthcoming. “We might be extending for no good reason at all. It might be better to go home and come back rather than linger.”

There has been an exchange of letters between the the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Agency for Health Care Administration and Republicans in Florida’s Congressional delegation. In its letter to the state, CMS said providing access to health care is a better use of taxpayers’ dollars than funding pools for uncompensated care.

Though AHCA has been pressing the federal government for an agreement in principle that would advise the state how much LIP money it could expect, CMS has not provided the state with a figure. During her Senate confirmation hearing Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek said she has pressed the federal government to get the figure but to no avail.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said he “assume(s) it’s most likely we would be looking at a special session” and not an extended session. An extension makes sense only if the two chambers can reach some sort of accord in the next week and work on the budget can begin.”

Crisafulli said bill that have a fiscal impact, such as the House tax reduction package, would have to be included in a special session if that is the route the Legislature chooses to take. If the Legislature extends then the bills would remain in play.