Issue of state-county Medicaid bills settled, but still stinks

The old adage "desperate times call for desperate measures" comes to mind over the state's onerous mandate that Florida's counties pay for disputed, mostly old Medicaid charges. Determined not to raise any taxes but desperate for revenue, the Legislature found a way to grab money from county taxpayers instead -- even though the state's own error-prone Medicaid billing system is at fault.

Initially, the state went after $325.5 million -- which would have plugged quite a few budget holes, or served the special interests that rule Tallahassee. But the Florida Association of Counties, backed by 54 of the state's 67 counties, fought back with vociferous objections and a lawsuit. So the state backed down and brokered a settlement that reduces county payments. This week, Manatee County commissioners agreed to pay $1.8 million, a bargain compared with the initial bill of $5.2 million.

This entire episode still stinks, as that money could have funded programs valuable to Manatee County residents. At least local taxpayers are not pouring more money into state coffers.