State Politics

Gov. Scott asks for critical needs list in case of government shutdown

TALLAHASSEE -- 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, state Sen. Tom Lee and state 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 never before used in the Legislature and which does not appear in Florida statutes. A "continuation budget" is a common practice in Louisiana, where Scott's chief of staff, Melissa Sellers, worked before coming to Florida.

In other Scott-speak not likely to endear him to Republican senators, the governor refers in agency memos

to building a budget without "controversial and divisive issues like Medicaid expansion or using Florida tax dollars to fund the federal low-income pool program." Those programs are Senate priorities, though Senate GOP leaders deny their limited expansion of health care to the uninsured is an expansion of Medicaid.

Scott's budget director Cynthia Kelly has identified 13 critical service needs to 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 approved by voters last year.

Here is the full list of critical service needs identified by Scott's office:

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 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 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 with no resulting policy implications.