Joe Negron, who oversees health appropriations for the Florida Senate, has lamented that the panel he oversees sometimes feels like the “doom and gloom committee,” as it grapples with the fastest-growing portion of the state’s budget in an effort to free up money for other areas, like education.
On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a budget proposal that slashes state education spending by more than $3 billion. This morning, Sen. Negron, R-Stuart, quizzed Scott’s budget director: Why did the governor propose such deep reductions in education?
The budget director, Jerry McDaniel, said the reduction was mostly due to expiring stimulus money, and that Scott was “adamant” upon taking office about not replacing temporary federal funds.
During Monday’s unveiling, Scott compared stimulus money to winning the lottery. The state shouldn’t be planning on any future windfalls.
Scott’s budget proposal cuts health and human services in some areas, but assumes an increase in Medicaid spending over its first year, followed by a freeze in future years as the state phases in a managed-care system that requires health providers to keep spending flat — an idea that assumes the federal government will approve an expansion of the state’s Medicaid reform waiver. McDaniel told Negron that Scott’s team would be willing to work with him to put a lid on health spending as lawmakers weigh priorities.
Negron was not the only member of the Senate budget committee to question aspects of Scott’s plan. Lawmakers have questioned corporate tax cuts and reductions in transportation spending, which Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, worried could kill jobs.