Walkin' away from Lawton's endowment?
Legislators bargaining over the ugliest human services budget in decades convened for the first time Monday and senators abruptly "backed out," or eliminated $158-million in money from the health care fund known as the Lawton Chiles Endowment named for the late governor. But there was a sense that the decision might be temporary -- if the Senate and Gov. Charlie Crist can convince the House to open the fund and spend around $400-million, as Crist proposed in his budget. The governor remains astounded at the unwillingness of some lawmakers to dip into the "rainy day" fund.
"They (lawmakers) have the right to lobby their presiding officers to see if there's a change in temperament with all the cuts we've got," said Sen. Durell Peaden, R-Crestview, the Senate's No. 1 health care negotiator, who wants the pressure to build on House Speaker Marco Rubio.
A small glimmer of good news is headed DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth's way, as legislators found money to avoid eliminating 71 child-abuse investigator positions in the child welfare agency and 205 front-line positions processing requests for food stamps and cash support. But the two chambers are still at odds over cuts to Medicaid hospice patients and staffing reductions in nursing homes, just to name two areas.