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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott's $600m healthcare raid close to dead



Among the many tough-to-swallow ideas proposed by Gov. Rick Scott in his recommended budget is a plan to take about $600 million worth of local-government tax money dedicated to healthcare and redirect it into the state's general-revenue pot of money. That doesn't mean that local governments and their healthcare providers (namely hospitals) won't get their cash, but it means they'll have to fight harder for it against other interests in the state's general-revenue budget.

Right now, the $600 million is matched with federal money and draws down about $1 billion through what's called the low-income pool, a creation of former Gov. Jeb Bush in his 2005 Medicaid Reform program.

But not everyone's treated equally. Miami-Dade kicks in about 40 percent of the local goverrnment tax money through the Public Health Trust tax that's composed of property-tax and sales-tax money. In total, the three South Florida counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach account for nearly three quarters of all the local-government money. These three Democrat-heavy counties, which voted in droves against Scott in November, are none too please that he's proposing $2.4 billion in tax cuts and now wants them to have less of a guaranteed return on investment.

Expect sparks to fly over this, as Miami-Dade's Republican-heavy delegation joins with the rest of the dense urban counties to weaken this proposal -- along with so much else in Scott's budget, which partly or totally collapses about 124 dedicated trust funds into general revenue, in part to fund his tax cuts and to make up for the $3.6 billion shortfall the state faced independent of his revenue reductions. 

**Update: Senate Democratic leader Nan Rich just raised the issue with Scott's budget director, Jerry McDaniel.

"We’ve taken as far-reaching a look," McDaniel said of the trust-fund raids/destruction. "Our standard has been: Is there a legal impediment?....  We are not wed to this specific set of trust funds. This is just the forwarding of a policy concept that we would like you to consider."

With an answer like that, it's safe to say this healthcare "concept" is close to dead.

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 10:03am]


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