Oct 3, 2011

More cuts around the corner-- Multiple state agencies competing for the same funds.

Health care agencies are told that budget cuts will likely be 'a reality' in 2012
Christine Jordan Sexton,

A top budget official for Gov. Rick Scott on Friday warned agency officials, as well as lobbyists, that it is likely that there will be more budget cuts for the state's health care agencies in the coming year.

Jane Johnson, the governor's budget chief for health care spending, made the announcement after listening to presentations from six of the state's agencies.

“We are all in this together, and none of us want to make cuts so go easy on us,” Johnson said. “We have to partner together. Unless money falls out of the sky, I don’t think things are going to change.”

Initial forecasts have shown that state lawmakers could possibly avoid another round of budget cuts in the coming year. But the past two months' tax collections have dropped below estimates, leading to fears that budget cuts will be inevitable. Scott himself may also need to cut the budget if he wants to pursue additional tax cuts that are part of his "7-7-7" jobs plan that he campaigned on.

The agencies appeared Friday before the governor’s Office of Policy and Budget to explain their legislative budget recommendations (LBRs) for the upcoming 2012-13 fiscal year and some agencies made brief presentations on their long-range plans, which the agencies were required to release on Friday.

The budget requests will be considered by the governor when he makes his own 2012 budget recommendations, which will be due before the end of the year because the session starts in January.

Many of the presentations focused on the request for additional dollars and few of the agencies touched on cuts other than Agency for Persons with Disabilities budget director Marta Harley, who outlined a series of reductions the agency is pursuing to meet the edict that the agency operate within its appropriations.

The other agencies that made presentations were the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Health, the Department of Elder Affairs, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Agency for Health Care Administration.

AHCA budget director Michelle Tallent the told the panel the agency wants $3 million to implement the mandatory Medicaid managed care program the Legislature passed last year. The agency also asked for $655,00 to “defend the agency in complex federal lawsuits.”

While most presentations didn’t focus on cuts, Johnson’s remarks at the end of the meeting did.

“I just hope that we can work together in a spirit of cooperation and understand the position that the agencies are required to take, which may seem adversarial to certain of your programs, but unfortunately it’s a fact of reality,'' Johnson said. “Thanks everybody and have a great Friday.”