Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee said Thursday night that he is beginning to make plans on how to bring the 2015 session in for a landing if legislators cannot solve the budget impasse between the House and Senate spending plans.
Lee said the chambers need to reach some sort of accord by “the middle of next week or thereabouts and then we are out of business.”
Then the questions become whether the Legislature extends the regular 2015 session or whether the Legislature chooses to meet in specials session. And those are the conversations, he said, that he’s beginning to have with House members, including Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran.
“You don’t want to look like a dear in the headlights when you get to that place where you can’t conference and everybody starts going ‘Ok, well now what are we going to do?’ So you start having that conversation now as it becomes more likely.”
The Senate passed an $80.4 billion budget and the House of Representatives passed a $76.2 billion spending plan. The difference is the inclusion of federal healthcare dollars. The Senate budget includes a continuation of LIP funding at $2 billion and also includes $2.8 billion in federal dollars for Medicaid expansion as outlined in the Senate FHIX proposal, SB 7044, sponsored by state Sen. Aaron Bean. The FHIX bill would use federal Medicaid dollars under the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacre, to provide health access to Floridians at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
The House budget doesn’t contain any Medicaid expansion dollars or Low Income Pool dollars.
While the chambers may not be able to reach an accord, Lee said he hopes to have “some kind of answer” from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on the continuation of the Low Income Pool, which is a supplemental pot of Medicaid dollars the state uses to offset the costs of uncompensated care.
Florida has received LIP dollars for nine years; they initially were secured by former Gov. Jeb Bush. CMS put Florida on notice last April that the LIP dollars would expire June 30, 2015.
Lee said that he hopes the state will be advised as to the amount of LIP funding but that he doesn’t believe it’s going to be good news.
“I think we’re going to get some kind of answer and it’s going to create a whole new set of problems we are going to have to deal with,” Lee said adding, “the more I get into this, the more I believe we have known for a very long time that LIP was not going to be extended in anything that remotely resembles its current form. Now I hope that’s not true, but the more I learn about this, the more i believe we have known this for a long time.”