Thursday, August 16, 2018
Politics

Scott to veto tuition hike, okay Medicaid transition money

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott today will veto a 3 percent increase in Florida college tuition and approve $65 million in extra Medicaid funding to hospitals that provide much of the care to the poor, including Tampa General and Jackson Memorial in Miami.

As Scott signs a $74.5 billion budget before leaving for a trade mission to Chile, his rejection of a tuition increase was expected. He has criticized the idea for months, calling it a "tax" on middle-class families.

Scott's veto message says Florida should be proud that its tuition is lower than most states and that students should be able to earn degrees and find jobs without being saddled with "massive debt."

The veto could draw a legal challenge from the Legislature. Tuition is technically not a line item subject to a veto, but is wedged into the budget as proviso language tied to an appropriation that Scott will not veto. Former Gov. Charlie Crist took similar action in 2007, and lawmakers didn't challenge it in court.

Seeking to build a case for a veto, Scott's office asked state university presidents to sign a letter saying they do not want more tuition revenue this year. University leaders collectively decided not to sign the letter, and balked at getting in the middle of a fight between Scott and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who led the charge for a tuition hike.

Nevertheless, universities never planned on the additional tuition revenue, worth about $18 million, because they anticipated Scott's veto. Regardless, by law, tuition will automatically rise 1.7 percent to keep up with inflation.

In a statement, Weatherford said he would continue to work with university presidents and the state Board of Governors to move the university system "forward to the benefit of our students."

"The rumor that the Governor will veto tuition increases tomorrow is not a surprise," he said in Sunday's statement.

The state's largest hospitals were relieved to learn Scott will not spike $65 million aimed at easing the transition to a new Medicaid payment system. In return, hospitals agreed not to ask for more such money next year.

Safety net hospitals lobbied heavily for the extra money, saying a new payment system, known as DRG for diagnosis-related groups, caused massive cuts in Medicaid funding. The House insisted on including transition dollars and the Senate agreed to the $65 million.

Scott's office hinted to hospitals last week that he would reject the money and in response they ramped up their lobbying. Those familiar with the governor's rationale said he felt the formula should stand as is, without consideration for winners and losers.

After hearing from hospitals and their advocates, Scott backed down, but not without obtaining concessions from the hospitals that the funding would last for one year. About 20 hospitals sent letters to Scott pledging to reject additional transition dollars next year, many using a form letter.

"Since these funds are intended to mitigate the cost of transition, I will request elimination of the recurring appropriation in the 2014-2015 state fiscal year if you approve the funding for the upcoming state fiscal year," most letters said.

Among those who sent them were Miami's Jackson Health System president and CEO Carlos Migoya, Tampa General Hospital president and CEO Jim Burkhart, Moffitt Cancer Center's Jack Kolosky and Broward Health CEO and president Frank Nask.

When he signs the budget today, Scott will talk about increased transparency and accountability with the DRG system, which pays hospitals according to services they provide and the complexity of a patient's condition, rather than the length of their hospital stays. It's similar to how the federal government pays hospitals for Medicare.

Hospitals may have had an easier time agreeing not to ask for more transition money next year because starting in October 2014, they may no longer be relying on the state for Medicaid funding. That's when Florida anticipates switching to a statewide managed care system, where HMOs will oversee Medicaid patients and their care. The state will pay the managed care companies, which in turn will pay hospitals.

Today's budget signing will take place in Tallahassee and will be the first time Scott will take such action in the capital.

Two years ago, he signed the budget at a private event at the Villages, a Central Florida retirement community, at which tea party members waved signs of support and Democrats were barred from attending.

Last year, Scott signed the budget at an elementary school in suburban Jacksonville to highlight a $1 billion increase in spending for schools. The governor handed unusual souvenirs to first-graders: Sharpie pens that write in indelible ink.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments

Two Seminole council members face challengers

SEMINOLE — Six candidates have filed to run for two open seats on the City Council.Incumbents Chris Burke, first elected in 2012, and Trish Springer, elected in 2015, face challenges from former council member Dan Hester, who served from 2005 to 2010...
Updated: 9 hours ago
In Republican race for Pinellas County Commission seat, Rep. Kathleen Peters outpacing field

In Republican race for Pinellas County Commission seat, Rep. Kathleen Peters outpacing field

As the Aug. 28 primary election approaches, three Republicans are battling to represent a Pinellas County Commission district that hasn’t witnessed a competitive contest for more than 15 years.State Reps. Larry Ahern of Seminole and Kathleen Peters o...
Published: 08/16/18
Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Decorum matters, and so the attorney’s language was appropriately measured.In seeking to have a constitutional amendment thrown off the ballot, a motion filed in Leon County used words such as "misleading’’ and "ambiguity’’ and "wordsmithing.’’That’s...
Published: 08/16/18
Veteran Hernando politicians take oversized contributions, run afoul of campaign finance laws

Veteran Hernando politicians take oversized contributions, run afoul of campaign finance laws

BROOKSVILLE — With primary Election Day at the doorstep, two Republican candidates vying for seats on the Hernando County Commission found themselves in uncomfortable spots over potential filings with the Florida Commission on Ethics.And a third Repu...
Published: 08/15/18
Q&A: A Watergate trickster talks dirty politics, then and now

Q&A: A Watergate trickster talks dirty politics, then and now

CLEARWATERNearly half a century ago, Martin Kelly made the mistake of his life.He was a senior at the University of Miami when he decided to take part in what would become one of the most infamous political scandals in U.S. history: Watergate. He was...
Published: 08/15/18

Pasco Political Notebook for Aug. 17

Republican Club hosts candidate forum at meetingThe West Pasco Republican Club will host an "Election Extravaganza" candidate forum at its meeting Aug. 21 at Heritage Springs Country Club, 11345 Robert Trent Jones Parkway, Trinity. A social time will...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/15/18
Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting Pasco County begins Saturday and runs through Aug. 25, with 11 locations across the county for voters.Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 20-24, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug...
Published: 08/13/18
Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

LARGO — There will be no suspense in the city when elections arrive Nov. 6. In fact, there will be no election at all, because all four city commissioners whose seats were up were re-elected by default when no one came forward by the end of the candi...
Published: 08/13/18
Florida candidate tried to prove she’s a college graduate. The school says her diploma is fake.

Florida candidate tried to prove she’s a college graduate. The school says her diploma is fake.

The political kerfuffle around Melissa Howard began when a news site reported that the Florida state House hopeful is not a college graduate, as she claims to be. To prove the story wrong, Howard, R, reportedly flew to her proclaimed alma mater, Ohio...
Published: 08/12/18
Romano: Two years later, politicians still ignoring Florida voters on medical marijuana

Romano: Two years later, politicians still ignoring Florida voters on medical marijuana

The war is over, except no one in Tallahassee has bothered to read the news.And so Florida continues its daft fight against medical marijuana. All of which means patients are being left behind, voters are getting ignored, and lawyers are buying fanci...
Published: 08/11/18