Gov. Rick Scott directed all state agencies Thursday to draw up lists of "critical service needs ... in the event Florida is forced into a government shutdown on July 1."
Scott's memos to agencies carry an alarming tone and were released the day after the Legislature's chief budget-writers, Sen. Tom Lee and Rep. Richard Corcoran, struck a hopeful tone and said they had made progress toward a compromise after an all-day negotiating session in the Capitol.
Scott continues to use the term "continuation budget" -- a term that he has not defined and has never been used in the Legislature and does not appear in Florida statutes. However, a "continuation budget" is a common practice in Louisiana, where Scott's chief of staff, Melissa Sellers, worked for Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal before coming to Florida.
In some more Scott-speak not likely to endear him to Republican senators, Scott refers in his agency memos that he's building a budget without "controversial and divisive issues like Medicaid expansion or using Florida tax dollars to fund the federal low-income pool program." Both programs are Senate priorities, though Senate GOP leaders deny that their limited expansion of health care to the uninsured is an expansion of Medicaid. Scott's memorandum says the lists of critical service needs are needed because "it is possible that Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner and the Florida Senate will not agree to any budget without the specific expansion of Medicaid at a cost to state taxpayers of $5 billion over 10 years."
Scott's budget director Cynthia Kelly has identified 13 critical service needs that should be addressed in the upcoming special session on the state budget. They include operating deficits in four state agencies; an anticipated increase of 15,000 students in the public schools; the transportation work program; and implementation of Amendment 1, the water and land protection amendment.
Below is the full list of critical service needs:
CRITICAL SERVICE NEEDS – AS IDENTIFIED BY OPB:
1) Fiscal year 2014-2015 operating deficits in the Departments of Corrections, Juvenile Justice, Health, and Children and Families, and other funding shortfalls adopted by the most recent consensus estimating conferences;
2) Additional kindergarten through 12th grade students as determined by the April 13, 2015, enrollment conference with state funds maintained at the fiscal year 2014-15 level through the Florida Education Finance Program;
3) Medicaid expenditures based on the March 4, 2015, Social Services Estimating Conference;
4) Department of Transportation Work Program;
5) Economic development and housing programs at the fiscal year 2014-2015 funding level;
6) Minimum operating requirements necessary to continue emergency management and other current state services;
7) Fixed Capital Outlay for critical maintenance and repairs of state-owned and public school facilities;
8) Fixed Capital Outlay necessary to continue ongoing construction projects for special facilities;
9) Matching funds necessary for Federally declared disasters and National Guard facilities;
10) Environmental initiatives consistent with Amendment One;
11) Actuarially-recommended rates for the Florida Retirement System;
12) Repayment of the final transfer to the Budget Stabilization Fund; and
13) Other necessary technical adjustments that have no resulting policy implications.