Fed Word On LIP Gives Session New Focus
For weeks now, one question has hovered over Tallahassee: How will the House and Senate resolve their differences on health care funding and wrap up a special session --- scheduled to begin Monday --- with a spending plan for state government?
If the pieces didn't necessarily fall into place last week, lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott were at least able to get around to opening the puzzle box.
Scott's newly created health care funding commission held its first meeting. But with hospitals giving the panel the cold shoulder and the chairman suggesting the group probably wouldn't finish the work before the end of the special session, it appeared to be as much political theater as viable solution.
More important was the federal government's preliminary estimate of the size of a pot of money known as the Low Income Pool program --- or, in the parlance of the Capitol, LIP. The nearly $2.2 billion program will now be shaved down to about $1 billion, though the state could make up the difference with some local funds and perhaps state tax money (the House's preferred solution) or a form of Medicaid expansion (the Senate's).
However the impasse ends, the wheels of state government have continued turning in the interim. Scott signed dozens of bills this week covering everything from who can carry guns during emergency situations to the funding of pension plans for local police officers and firefighters. And the state's de facto school-voucher program seems safe --- at least for now.