Gov. Rick Scott was presented with this year’s general appropriations bill today. He now has 15 days to veto line items and sign the budget into law.
This year’s $70 billion budget has been criticized by Democrats in the Legislature and by advocacy groups for low-income Floridians for its deep cuts to public services. Toward the end of the legislative session, labor unions and activists 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.
Those services could see even more cuts, because of Scott’s power to veto parts of the budget. 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.
The budget cuts primary care visits and emergency room visits for Medicaid recipients and strips $4.4 million from family planning for Medicaid recipients, while keeping funding for controversial “crisis pregnancy centers” intact.
Democratic members of the state House and Senate criticized the budget upon its passage in both chambers because of 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.
Last year, Scott’s line-item vetoes including about $180 million in “turkeys” pointed out by a Florida Tax Watch, a nonprofit group that criticizes government spending. The group has yet to announce with projects it recommends should be vetoed this year.