Rick Scott on future of safety net programs: ‘We have got to start being honest with the public’
(NationalSentinel) The Washington Post reports: “Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers, including his chief of staff, have signaled their intention to explore the possibility of cutting public health programs, such as Medicaid, under a budget now being considered by a legislative panel. In fact, Scott has been publicly pushing that idea since the start of the year, as a way to cut the state General Fund. ‘If we’re going to take that path, we have got to be honest with the public,’ he told a private meeting with state business leaders in mid-January. ‘We’re not going to have enough money in Florida to fund everything. I say, stop going out there and saying, ‘We have money for you.’ We don’t have enough money for everything.’ (Scott’s spokesman, Doug Holtz, later told The Washington Post that the governor was saying things a little differently.)”
In the same news conference at the state Capitol, Scott told state business leaders, “The governor is not going to cut every program in the state.” And he added: “We are not going to cut every program in Florida if we don’t have enough money.”
A source with knowledge of the discussions, who was not authorized to speak publicly and was not authorized to describe the talks in detail, said Scott and his aides had been talking with state business leaders on this issue for months.
In Florida, where about 80,000 people receive health care benefits from the state, the state government has about $7 billion in its General Fund and another $2.2 billion from a separate pool of Medicaid money. The Medicaid costs are the biggest single drain from the General Fund. But Scott and state legislators have argued that Florida has not needed to borrow any of its $13 billion in reserves to cover the Medicaid costs, and since the recession, the state has needed only about $600 million to meet its needs. Florida has been under federal sequestration for the past two years, cutting spending.
The federal government is trying to keep up with demands on Medicaid spending, and the federal budget is already under threat.