This year’s state budget will leave the Florida Legislature and be en route to the governor’s desk this week.
According to the Lakeland Ledger, the budget “could take another week to arrive at Gov. Rick Scott’s office.” Once it does, however, the governor will have “15 days to veto line items and sign the budget bill.”
Last year, many programs — ranging from $12 million for homeless housing assistance, special medical care for farmworkers and several public health programs for at-risk women and children — suffered deep cuts (and sometimes complete elimination) at the hand of Scott’s line-item vetoes.
This time around, some of the same programs are hoping to receive funding.
For example, the state’s $70 billion budget currently awards half a million dollars to a community health center in Apopka, which would go toward providing specialized health care to a community experiencing a high rate of environmentally caused illnesses. The same allocation was included in last years budget, until Scott vetoed it.
The budget already makes deep cuts, critics have warned. Toward the end of the legislative session, labor unions and activists from all over the state traveled to Tallahassee to denounce cuts to higher education, Medicaid, reimbursements for hospitals that serve the poor and assisted living facilities. Protesters argued it was a “shame” that businesses continue to receive huge tax breaks in the state as safety net programs for the poor receive devastating cuts.
The budget heading to Scott’s desk slashes primary care visits and emergency room visits for Medicaid recipients, cutting visits to their primary care provider to two visits per month for non-pregnant adults and visits to the emergency room to six visits per fiscal year for a non-pregnant recipient 21 years of age or older.
Legislators also stripped $4.4 million from the family planning budget for Medicaid recipients, while keeping funding for controversial “crisis pregnancy centers” intact.
Critics of the budget have also denounced the absence of federal grants for public health programs, which they argue could offset the budget shortfall that has lead to reductions for health services in the state.