Gov. Rick Scott told agency heads to prepare for the worst Thursday, asking them to list only the state’s most critical needs in the event the Legislature can’t reach an agreement on a budget that doesn’t expand health care to the poor.
Scott sent the letter to agency heads the day after lawmakers said they were making progress on a budget impasse that they’ll seek to resolve in a special session beginning June 1.
“Prepare a list of critical state services our citizens cannot lose in the event Florida is forced to shut down on July 1st,” Scott wrote.
In writing the letter, Scott is further digging in his heels in his refusal to expand health care coverage to 800,000 Floridians, a move that could cost the state more than $1 billion in federal money to help hospitals treat the poor, which is called the low-income pool.
The issue is what caused the budget impasse. The Senate was willing to expand Medicaid, but the House refused and left the regular session three days early without a budget agreement. Lawmakers are tentatively scheduled to return to Tallahassee on June 1 for a three week special session to try to resolve the issue. Budget leaders said Wednesday they are making progress toward a resolution.
But Scott wrote that the health care dispute is too difficult to resolve in a special session.
“I believe the debate on how to increase access to healthcare while lowering cost and improving quality is an important one to have. However, it will need to be much longer and more thoughtful than we have time to accommodate during a budget special session,” he wrote.
Scott told agency heads that he is preparing a budget proposal that “excludes controversial and divisive issues like Medicaid expansion or using Florida tax dollars to fund the federal Low Income Pool program.”
But he said the Senate might not agree to a budget unless it includes some sort of Medicaid expansion, so agencies should prepare for a shutdown.
Senate President Andy Gardiner said he was pleased with the budget progress and pointed out that the state constitution assigns the role of developing the budget to the Legislature, not the governor, according to spokeswoman Katie Betta.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.