George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

The News-Press — Lawmakers l⁠i⁠kely ⁠t⁠o pass budge⁠t⁠, pun⁠t⁠ on Med⁠i⁠ca⁠i⁠d

By: The James Madison Institute / 2015

The News-Press
“Lawmakers likely to pass budget, punt on Medicaid”
May 30, 2015
By Jeff Burlew and Sean RossmanLawmakers will almost certainly pass a budget sometime before the end of June — failure to do so could shut down state government and throw their political futures into doubt.But they’re far less likely to agree on whether to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, an issue so politically charged it unraveled the regular legislative session last month and led to an abrupt, early adjournment by the House.The House and Senate reconvene Monday for a second stab at passing a budget. The two chambers, meeting in special session, are still far apart in their respective budgets, a gulf created by their starkly different approaches to Medicaid and funding for safety-net hospitals.GOP leaders in the House, not to mention Gov. Rick Scott, staunchly oppose the Senate’s plan to expand Medicaid to 800,000 uninsured Floridians. Scott raised the specter of a government shutdown earlier this month when he asked state agencies to come up with contingency plans to maintain essential services should the fiscal year end without a budget.The Tallahassee Democrat asked local observers and elected officials how they think the session will play out. Many believe Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner and their lieutenants will hammer out a budget deal but punt on a long-term Medicaid agreement.•Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy for the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, said lawmakers know they must get a budget done before the fiscal year ends June 30.”I think they all recognize that time is a commodity and it’s in limited quantity,” he said. “No one on either side wants a shutdown. My guess is that the debate won’t end with this special session.”•Jeffrey Sharkey, a Tallahassee lobbyist, said it’s possible lawmakers could find some compromise on health care, even if it’s a small one.”I think the Senate, in an attempt to get some coverage for uninsured Floridians, will develop a plan that is a streamlined, stripped-down version of a private (health-care) exchange that may be acceptable to the House and fund that at a modest level, almost like a pilot to see how it works,” he said. “I think that would allow both sides to give a little and get a little.”•Mike Fasano, who served nearly two decades in the House and Senate, said lawmakers likely won’t agree to expand Medicaid but will manage to pass a budget.”It will get resolved — it has to,” said Fasano, now Pasco County tax collector. “They would be fools and they would be foolish if it went beyond June 30.”•Paula Dockery, a Republican from Lakeland who spent 16 years in the House and Senate, said it’s likely the Senate will back away from its plan to expand Medicaid in order to pass a budget and avoid a shutdown. But Dockery, a syndicated columnist and Scott critic, said the session’s outcome is uncertain.”Hard to predict with Scott showing not only a lack of leadership but a Ted Cruz-like behavior,” she said in an email. “It seems he wants to blow up the special session. Crazy.”•David Hart, the executive vice president of governmental affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said he’s optimistic lawmakers will pass a budget but will delay a decision on Medicaid expansion.”We have a Senate that’s very focused on expansion of coverage,” he said, “and we have a House that’s looking at the cost drivers of the system.”•Rep. Halsey Beshears, a Republican from Monticello who opposes Medicaid expansion, said lawmakers should wait to take up Medicaid until the next regular session, which starts in January about two months earlier than usual.”We should be coming back up here, getting the budget done and moving on — period,” he said. “This is as contentious as it’s been and it’s all over Medicaid expansion.”•Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, said he expects the two chambers to pass a budget that includes funding for safety-net hospitals, education and transportation, among other things. Although he voted for a House budget that didn’t include Medicaid expansion, he said he supports it and hopes it will somehow pass.”If we can put a man on the moon,” he said, “we can pass Medicaid and pass the budget.”Jeff Burlew and Sean Rossman cover the legislature for the Tallahassee Democrat.Freelance writer Betty Parker contributed to this report.Article: