Finally … chambers set for Saturday conference on budget

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The Florida Senate was in session for less than five minutes on Friday before adjourning.

Senate President Andy Gardiner announced that the House and Senate had agreed to budget allocations and that the two chambers would begin hammering out the differences in the proposed spending plans for the 2015-16 fiscal year beginning at 9 a.m.

Those were the only details that Gardiner, or his usually chatty budget chair Sen. Tom Lee, divulged early Friday. In other words, they didn’t announce what allocations each budget committee would have to spend.

“I think you’ll see general revenue going into Low Income Pool. I think you’ll see us do everything we can to fully implement Amendment 1,” Gardner said.

“We are very committed, as the House is, to providing a tax package that we can be proud of. That’s our commitment and we hope to put that all together in the next four or five days.”

Gardiner said he wanted to speak to his subcommittee chairs before disclosing any figures.

Gov. Rick Scott said during the spring that he would not use general revenue to backfill the loss of any Low Income Pool money so the announcement that the chambers have agreed to plug general revenue into hospital funding could put the chambers at odds with the governor.

“I’m trying to stay in the moment. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Lee said when asked whether the move to use general revenue could result in a veto. “You are wise to keep one eye on what might or might not be acceptable at the plaza level. But they are going to watch us work. They know we are up here doing our job.

“If they have input they’ve got my number and I’d love to chat with them anytime. But I don’t have any real concern about it at this moment based on the conversations I had with them in the Regular Session.”

The Legislature also is not using a proposed Low Income Pool formula that Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Justin Senior floated at the eleventh hour that would put all LIP funding into hospital rates. The proposal has not been agreed to by the federal government. Lee said the alternative LIP proposal floated by Senior won’t be used in the Legislature’s budget.

The chambers were able to agree to allocations after the federal government put Florida on notice that it could expect to receive $1 billion in Low Income Pool for the 2015-16 year and another $600,00 in 2016-17.

The agreement also was reached after the House of Representatives agreed to consider the Senate’s proposal to expand health care access called FHIX.

Christine Jordan Sexton



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