Hundreds of organizations that receive state dollars are being asked to provide information about the salaries of their top executives to the Florida Senate in the next two weeks.
Florida Senate staff members compiled an eight-page list of organizations that would supply salary information. in recurring funding in this year’s state budget.
A News Service of Florida analysis of the Senate document shows that more than 45% of the recurring funding is spent on health-care related projects, from mental-health treatment centers to nutritional programs for seniors to naltrexone shots for drug addicts. The health-care money goes to 100 organizations that combine to receive more than $86 million for projects.
Some of the biggest recipients included in the document were Shands Teaching Hospital, at $9,673,569; the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, at $9.5 million; and The ARC of Florida, at $3 million. Along with project money, the Legislature directs other money to Shands.
“I don’t have a problem with it, it’s part of the process,” Jim DeBeaugrine, interim CEO of The ARC of Florida, said of the Senate’s request for information.
DeBeaugrine said The ARC of Florida uses the money to provide dental services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who aren’t enrolled in the Medicaid “iBudget” program and, therefore, don’t qualify for the state’s managed Medicaid dental program.
The funding also is targeted, he said, to some clients who require care from dentists and dental assistants who have experience working with the population.
“We are a contract paid for by public money, and we are proud of the work we do,” DeBeaugrine said.
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, made the request for information Tuesday after her panel heard a presentation on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ newly proposed $96.6 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.
Stargel suggested at the meeting that the Senate would be considering a more conservative spending plan than the one that the Governor unveiled last week.
“I like to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Stargel said.
In crafting a budget, lawmakers look at recurring funding and non-recurring — or one-time — funding. Part of the challenge is to have enough recurring revenue to meet recurring expenses.
Lawmakers will start the 2021 Legislative Session on March 2. While lawmakers will consider hundreds of bills they only are required by law to pass one bill: the budget.
But the Senate review also comes after the discovery last year that Tiffany Carr, the former CEO of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, was paid $7.5 million over a three-year period, including more than $3.7 million in paid time off.
Lawmakers subsequently dismantled the coalition, which was established in state law to distribute funding to domestic violence shelters, and vowed to more closely track how state dollars are spent.
The Florida Council Against Sexual Violence is one of the 100 health-care related organizations included on the Senate list. It has received $2.5 million in recurring revenue for nearly a decade after former Gov. Rick Scott pushed for it, said Jennifer Dritt, the group’s executive director.
Dritt said 95% of the $2.5 million in state funding is spent on 36 certified rape-crisis centers that provide services free of charge to people who have been victims of sexual assault. The other 5%, she said, is maintained by the organization to cover costs associated with administering the money.
Dritt submitted her salary to the state last year when, in the wake of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence scandal, the Legislature started taking a closer look at how entities operated. She said she will submit the requested information to the Senate by Feb. 19.
“I’m always reluctant to discuss salary because it always seems unseemly,” Dritt said adding, “I’m not worried.”
Republished with permission from the News Service of Florida.