Staying Afloat: With Ocean of Need, Legislature’s HHS Budget for 2016-17 Provides Some Buoys, But Rejects Prime Opportunity to Add Rescue Ships and Lighthouses
Unlike last year, the 2016 regular session of the Florida Legislature adjourned on time, with House and Senate agreeing on a budget for the upcoming year. In 2015, the disagreement over whether or not to accept what would have been a 100 percent federally funded extension of health coverage to as many as 800,000 uninsured, very low-income Floridians pushed the 2015 session into overtime. This year, however, Medicaid expansion and its potential benefit to Florida’s businesses, families and taxpayers were barely discussed. Instead, House and Senate entered the budget negotiation process with similar proposals and the intent to avoid another impasse.
Big Tax Cuts May Pass If Legislature Resolves Health Care Differences
At the midpoint of the legislative session, the Florida Senate and the House of Representatives are stalemated over the issue of health care expansion under the Affordable Care Act and funding for the Low Income Pool (LIP).
The LIP program is a local/federal match “designed to fund supplemental payments to hospitals that provide services to Medicaid recipients, the uninsured, and underinsured individuals.” It also “authorized supplemental Medicaid payments to provider access systems, such as federally qualified health centers, county health departments, and hospital primary care programs. Under current law the funding associated with the LIP will expire on July 1, 2015.
Tax Fairness: An Answer to Florida’s Budget Problems
In Florida, the very highest‐income residents are getting richer: the top one percent of taxpayers—those who earned average income of $1.49 million in 2012—now get nearly a third of all the state’s income. They also pay less of their income in taxes than everyone else—less than a quarter of the rate of the middle class. If these high income earners paid taxes at the same rate as middle‐class Floridians, the state could solve many of its budget problems—raising an eye‐popping $10.2 billion per year for education, infrastructure, health care and other essential services, pensions and environmental protection.
Keeping and Modernizing Florida’s Corporate Income Tax Will Best Serve the State
Governor Rick Scott and legislative leaders are moving forward with a plan to cut corporate income tax revenues again after previous cuts in his first term. Senate Bill 138, which would reduce corporate income tax collections by $19 million annually, has been approved in two committees. Its companion bill, House Bill 49, awaits action in the House of Representatives. Action on these bills comes amid a renewed pledge by Scott to end the tax entirely, as he first proposed when inaugurated in 2011. SB 138 and HB 49 are another step toward eliminating the tax, legislators have said.
Florida is expected to pass the 20 million mark during 2016, making it the third largest state in the country. Current estimates are that Florida’s population will be 23.8 million in 2030,1 an increase of 4.2 million people from 19.6 million in 2013.
Today’s Florida residents live in a state still recovering from the Great Recession. As expected in any recovery period, jobs are coming back, although too few to employ the same percentage of Floridians that had jobs before the recession. State revenues are increasing now and are expected to climb each year into the foreseeable future. But policymakers have used much of that growth money to provide new tax breaks each legislative session (see section below) instead of reinvesting in areas of the budget squeezed during the recession years. Telling points: Florida ranks 49th in the nation in per capita state and local spending for education, but corrections is funded well enough to rank 23rd among the states;3 and the state ranks 43rd in a recent survey of quality of services for the elderly, disabled and their caregivers.
Scott Budget: Tax Cuts Consume Most of General Revenue Growth Dollars, Leaving Little for Investments in State Services
Governor Rick Scott’s budget proposal for the 2016-17 fiscal year is notable for one stark fact: It proposes spending more than twice as much money from general revenue growth on tax cuts than on increasing funding for vital state services.
Of the state’s more than $1.3 billion increase in general revenue from the current fiscal year to 2016- 17, Scott proposes to use more than $1 billion of it on tax cuts – $920.1 million of it in permanent recurring general revenues.2 He would use just $390 million on net new general revenue appropriations for education, health care, mental health, corrections, child welfare.