Gov. Rick Scott (Pic via flgov.com)
Gov. Rick Scott (Pic via flgov.com)

Policy research group: Florida made ‘unnecessarily harmful’ budget cuts

By | 07.28.11 | 1:45 pm

A policy research group has included Florida in a list of states that made unnecessarily austere budget cuts this past year.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes that out of the “47 states with newly enacted budgets, 38 or more states are making deep, identifiable cuts in K-12 education, higher education, health care, or other key areas in their budgets for fiscal year 2012.” Florida was used many times as an example of  state where harmful policies were recently enacted.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a “policy organization working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals.”

According to their research, the services hardest hit by state cuts have been education and health care.

The group writes:

This level of budget-cutting is unnecessary and results, in part, from state and federal actions and failures to act. To be sure, with tax collections in most states still well below pre-recession levels and lagging far behind the growing cost of maintaining services, additional cuts at some level were inevitable for 2012. But the cutbacks in services that many states are now imposing are larger than necessary.

Florida was listed several times for its cuts to K-12 and higher education, as well as deep cuts to health services.

According to the report:

  • Florida is cutting spending on K-12 education by $542 per pupil compared with last year. The state also has cut $13 million from the state’s school readiness program that gives low-income families access to high quality early care for their children. The cut means over 15,000 children currently participating in the program will no longer be served. Florida also reduced by 7 percent the per-student allocation to providers participating in the state’s universal prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds, which will mean that classrooms have more children per teacher.
  • Florida’s cuts in funding for the state’s universities has led to tuition hikes of 15 percent for the new school year, bringing the cumulative tuition increase since 2009 to 52 percent.
  • Florida reduced Medicaid payment rates by 12 percent for most hospitals, by 6.5 percent for nursing homes, and by 4 percent for centers that provide medical care to people with developmental disabilities.
  • Florida cut state higher education spending and raised state university tuition for undergraduates by 8 percent. State universities are increasing tuition by another 7 percent to offset cuts in funding. This comes on the heels of tuition hikes equaling over 30 percent since the 2009-10 school year. The state has also cut a university merit-based scholarship program by 20 percent.

Florida also made it to a list of states that have enacted tax cuts, which have forced even deeper cuts to spending on health services and education:

  • Florida’s budget increases the amount of business income exempt from the corporate income tax to $25,000 from $5,000, resulting in the exemption of 15,000 businesses from the tax, at a cost to the state of $12 million in fiscal year 2012 and $29 million each year thereafter. The budget also imposes a cap on property tax collection by the state’s five water management districts, costing local districts $210 million.

As previously reported, health services for women and children in Florida, in particular, took a big hit this past year.

Healthy Start in Florida, an organization that provides high-quality prenatal care services for at-risk mothers and health care services for children in their communities, lost millions in funding. The group also lost extra funds when Gov. Rick Scott cut an additional $200,000 from a nurse-family partnership that would have provided specialized care for high-risk first-time mothers throughout Orange County.

Funds were also cut from a community health center that provided health services to at-risk seasonal farmworkers in Apopka. The funds that Scott vetoed from the budget would have been set aside to give specialized health care to patients who suffer from ailments related to their work environment.

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