As the state House began vetting its proposed $79.9 billion budget, some lawmakers questioned the decision to cut more than 700 positions from the Department of Health.
Rep. Matt Hudson, chairman of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, said the budget eliminates 718 positions from the Department of Health’s budget. Many of those positions are vacant.
The positions on the chopping block were ones that had been previously authorized by the Florida Legislature. But Hudson said the Department of Health has not taken steps to fill them.
“How did we authorize 718 positions that were never filled,” said Rep. Janet Cruz, a Tampa Democrat.
Hudson said the mission of the health department has changed, which means county health departments might not need as many positions. He also stressed that many of the positions that are being cut are vacant.
Florida leads the nation in new HIV infections. On Thursday, Democrats questioned whether there were a correlation between cuts to health departments and the growth in new cases of HIV.
“I’m wondering if you did an analysis to determine whether if … these positions were needed for public health concerns,” said Rep. David Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat.
Hudson said the positions are designated as county health positions and could have been filled by the county department if there was a need. He also said after the cuts, there will still be “400 available (positions) that can be turned on at any time.”
The House’s proposed 2016-17 budget includes 13,640 health department positions, down from 14,358 funded in the 2015-16.