Another Political Debacle

Florida State Capitol // Flickr.com
Florida State Capitol // Flickr.com

spaceballspaceballAs if the current political turmoil in Washington over the Democratic proposals for health care reform wasn’t enough, start preparing for the next debacle at the Florida Senate in the coming weeks.

According to the News Service of Florida, Senators Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, and Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, will propose that the state withdraw participation from the federal Medicaid program amid fears that national reforms will not bring home sufficient benefits to constituents.

This proposal surfaces days before Federal stimulus money is expected to plug a gaping hole in Florida’s budget.

The recently approved bill that surfaced from the U.S. House of Representatives will enable another 1 million Floridians to qualify for federal Medicaid assistance.

Haridopolos and Gaetz will be asking the federal government for an exemption to create a Florida market to replace Medicaid’s involvement in the state.

Haridopolos, queued to be the next president of the Florida Senate, is advancing a politically savvy idea for his followers. And why not?

He’s trying to avoid what many conservatives fear to be a political nightmare regarding the changes that the Democrats are urging for health care reform. At the same time, he is revving an active conservative base that has vehemently fought the new health care legislation.

Although experts predict that the federal government will pay no attention to the proposal, Haridopolos and Gaetz seem to have nothing to lose. Even when the feds prohibit their requests, they will seem like visionaries and creative political thinkers to their party.

Vice-Chairman Nan Rich, D-Weston, of the Florida Senate’s Health and Human Services budget, has already called the proposition a “non-starter” and sees no major threat to Florida’s participation in national health care reform; and he’s probably right.

Still, one can only wonder to think – what if an idea like this caught enough political fire to blaze into a popular idea?

These new developments in the Senate arise during a precarious situation for the state government. Approximately $4 billion in federal stimulus money is about to make its way into the budget, filling a $700 million gap that has been leaking because of the dire economy.

The stimulus money would go to the construction of new roads and to help maintain many social services that the state already provides, among other uses.

According to The Miami Herald, $1.4 billion of the stimulus is scheduled to hit “shovel-ready” projects, or construction that is almost ready to begin immediately.

Although Governor Charlie Crist will wholeheartedly embrace the federal stimulus money, the Florida legislator is estimated to reject approximately $440 million in “workers’ compensation benefits,” according to The Herald.

So our enlightened Republican state legislators will continue to accept the federal stimulus money that helped bail us out from a seemingly bottomless budgetary hole. But when it comes to dealing with controversial issues that are unpopular among conservatives, however, a health care reform bill supported by President Obama seems increasingly untouchable. Desperate times have indeed called for uncharacteristic, desperate measures; but instead of compromising with the federal government, these two state legislators are more concerned with scoring some easy political points.

November 18, 2009


Ramon Galiana

News Editor

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