Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli have reached an agreement on the joint proclamation for the June 1-20 Special Session. The Special Session will be focused on completing a balanced budget as required by law to meet a June 30 deadline. Among the issues to be debated will be the Senate’s controversial plan to expand Medicaid and allocation of Amendment One funding.
The Senate’s plan to expand Medicaid would put Floridians on the hook for huge costs after the federal dollars run out. Medicaid currently provides substandard care to our most vulnerable and accounts for approximately 30 percent of the state’s budget. Grabbing federal dollars now will only blow up the state budget in the future. During the regular session, the House stood firm in opposition to the Senate’s Medicaid expansion plan, but the Special Session begins a new game and legislators are being pressured by special interest Health Care companies that want to feed from the federal trough.
Florida’s Medicaid reimbursement rates are a small fraction of the actual cost of providing health care services
The result of these price controls is a shortage in the number of physicians accepting Medicaid patients
The resulting shortage of Medicaid physicians means longer waits, diminished access and reduced health care for the poor
The Florida Water and Land Conservation Act, which was passed in the 2014 general election, requires that 33% of revenue from the Documentary Stamp tax must be allocated for conservation purposes to: “acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands.”
During the regular session your phone calls and e-mails were successful in minimizing the amount of money that would be used for purchasing conservation land with the House budget proposal allocated only $8 million and the Senate budget proposal allocated $15 million.
Governor Rick Scott had proposed $100 million. Environmental groups wanted as much as $300 million. But, just as Medicaid is back on the table, Amendment One funding is open for changes. Environmental groups are contacting legislators now to pressure them for more money to be spent on purchasing more land.
Currently, federal, state and local government own 9.9 million acres of conservation land in Florida. The total land area of Florida is 34,721,280 acres, meaning that almost one third of Florida is owned by some level of government for conservation purposes. The state currently has difficulty maintaining and protecting the conservation land it already owns. Before any additional properties are purchased for conservation purposes, existing waterways, estuaries, rivers and other water bodies presently endangered should be restored.
Why the Legislature should not allocate funds to purchasing more land:
Purchasing conservation land takes property off of the property tax rolls and reduces local government revenue. This will hinder budgeting for many counties. These county governments are not going to trim their budgets but raise taxes and fees on the taxpayers.
Revenue estimates show that 33% of documentary stamp tax will bring in approximately $750 million this year, and approximately $21.5 billion over 20 years. The real estate collapse of 2008 brought dramatic reduction in documentary tax revenue and with the economy still on shaky ground, it would be irresponsible to purchase property through bonding. Purchasing property through bonding increases state debt and annual debt service payments. Any downturns in the real estate market could expose citizens to higher taxes and fees to meet any revenue shortfall. The state purchasing more land also creates higher maintenance costs which will increase our current budget.
Legislators should use responsible budgeting and maintain sizable reserves for unseen economic downturns.
Also on the agenda for the Special Session is Senate President Andy Gardiner’s vision for a massive state-wide network of bike paths program called “SunTrail”. The SunTrail proposal calls for the Department of Transportation to annually set aside $50 million for the network. Half the money is to come from Amendment 1 and the other $25 million would be raised through a $225 fee already imposed when motor vehicles are initially registered, known as the new wheels fee.
The SunTrail program is another excuse for the state to purchase more land and waste taxpayer dollars. Senate President Andy Gardiner should be more concerned how he is going to pay for budget items, such as education and health care. A state-wide network of bike paths will not create any economic benefits and building bike paths should be done by local communities as they see a demand for biking.
Although the Special Session will not convene until June 1st, legislative leadership are already in negotiations on the budget and many decision could be decided before June 1st. It is crucial that we make phone and e-mails now to stop Medicaid expansion, land buying and bike paths.
Contact the legislative leadership
Speaker of the House / Steve Crisafulli / (850) 717-5051 / email@example.com
Representative / Richard Corcoran / (850) 717-5037 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Senate President / Andy Gardiner / (850) 487-5013 / email@example.com
Florida Senator / Tom Lee / (850) 487-5024 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact your Representative and Senator
Florida House contact information
Florida Senate contact information
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