Healthcare workers, educators say state should increase revenue, not cut spending
Pulling on a yellow and orange rope in a faux “tug-of-war” game, educators and healthcare workers said they were going to fight against Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature’s effort to increase education spending by $1 billion while cutting funding for hospitals and health programs.
Instead, the union-led coalition is backing an unpopular Democrat-led initiative to close business tax loopholes to increase revenue and avoid spending cuts on either side. Martha Baker, president of the SEIU chapter representing workers at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital, and United Teachers of Dade President Karen Aronowitz said lawmakers shouldn’t have to make an either-or choice when it comes to schools and healthcare.
“We’re not falling for that tug of war,” Baker said. “We’re not going to split monies. We’re going to stand up for a fair economy.”
The Democrats' proposal, called the Fair Economy Act, has not gone anywhere this year or in previous attempts. Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, and Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, are sponsoring the legislation this year. Rich says the proposal would net the state $500 million each year, but the Republican-led Legislature has not shown any interest in ending tax breaks for the state’s largest businesses.
Jenne took his normally fiery approach when addressing the crowd at a news conference hosted by Progress Florida, a progressive advocacy organization. Attendees rewarded him with cheers and applause that caused the event to take on the air of a church service.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you’re doing God’s work, understand that,” he said. “Understand what you’re doing other people would literally not have the heart, the spine, the guts to do on a daily basis.”
There were a few “amen”s shouted as Jenne railed against the state’s tax code, describing it as antiquated and favoring corporations over the commoner.
“The reason I’m doing this bill is to stand up for the middle class, to stand up for the people that make this economy run,” he said. “And to understand that you, not some corporate entity, are the life’s blood of this state.”
The House Appropriations Committee has approved a budget that doesn’t cut health care spending as much as the governor proposes but still reduces Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals and nursing homes to the tune of about $145 million.
The Senate hasn’t proposed a budget yet, but Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who chairs the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations, said his general fund allocation will be $7.3 billion, requiring him to cut $300 million more than the House proposal.