Florida Democrats working to change budget conversation

Feb 3, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Independent on February 2, 2012:

Florida Democrats working to change budget conversation

By Ashley Lopez

Flanked by nurses and educators, a group of Democratic state lawmakers held a press conference in the capital yesterday to denounce the GOP-led Legislature’s plans to cut health services in the state budget in order to save money for education.

State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, said that lawmakers were presenting “a false choice.”

Nurses and and educators showed up in support of Democrats who are pushing for a bill called the “Fair Economy Act.” The measure is an effort among Democratic legislators to change the state’s tax structure. Rich, state Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami, and Rep. Even Jenne, D-Fort Lauderdale, who are sponsoring the legislation, spoke at the event.

Labor groups said at the conference that they resented being “pinned against each other” for state funding.

Rich said that the state is currently missing out on $500 million worth of revenue. She claimed extra revenue could eliminate some of the “tough choices” legislators are now saying they are being forced to make. Rich said many big Florida-based companies are not paying their “fair share,” and the burden is landing on others.

The press conference was held the day after the Florida House passed its appropriations bill. At the request of the governor, legislators increased K-12 education spending by $1.1 billion, the House public information office reports. Health appropriations, however, saw a $54 million decrease. The House’s budget also reduces Medicaid provider rates by $453.2 million, which health workers at the conference said would disproportionately affect hospitals that take in the poor.

“It’s time to try something else,” Rich said.

While it is unlikely that the “Fair Economy Act” will be anything more than symbolic, Democrats are hoping it changes the conversation about the state’s priorities.

Jenne admitted the bill “is not going to get heard,” but said Democrats should be talking about the fact that there are other ways to solve than state’s budget problems than by following the GOP model. He said many people have been “deceived.”

“The conversation has been skewed,” he said.

Find this article:  http://floridaindependent.com/67614/florida-democrats-working-to-change-budget-conversation