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Special Tallahassee Update  
The Special Session convened Monday, January 5, 2009, to cut $2.3 billion from the current state fiscal year budget of $66 billion.

Thanks to our friends at the office of Commissioner Jos Martinez, they have provided us with the information below regarding how these budget cuts will be affecting Miami-Dade County.
There is general agreement between the House and Senate on cuts, with 4 percent cuts to most state agencies and substantial funds swept from trust funds and reserves.  House and Senate leadership agreed on the broad framework of cuts in setting the Special Session Call prior to the start of the Special Session.  With the exception of court fees and other relatively minor fee adjustments (see below), no new revenues, such as a cigarette tax or closing existing tax loopholes, were included in the Call.  Efforts by Democrats to introduce new sources of revenue or close various loopholes were voted down on the floor yesterday.  The Governor's proposal generally took larger amounts from trust funds and borrowed more as one-time revenues than either the House or Senate, which make somewhat deeper recurring cuts in light of the bleak longer-term state revenue outlook.
1.  Health Care/Jackson:
With health care and education making up two-thirds of the state budget, substantial cuts to health care are almost unavoidable, given the magnitude of the $2.3 billion budget shortfall, particularly if few new revenues are on the table.  The state's Medicaid health program is cut nearly $500 million in both the House and Senate budgets, including cuts to hospital inpatient reimbursements of $107 million statewide, a 4 percent cut that comes atop a 5.5 percent decrease approved last year.  An additional $30 million is cut from hospital outpatient reimbursements.  These cuts disproportionately affect charity care hospitals and Jackson in particular given their high Medicaid patient populations.  Nursing home reimbursement rates are also cut $220 million, a 10 percent cut, and both the House and Senate budgets include a $49 million cut in prescription drug assistance, which is a 3 percent cut.  Health care cuts generally match up in the House and Senate budgets which means there will not be substantial conferencing on these issues.

2.  Affordable Housing:
Affordable Housing is one area in which the House and Senate differ substantially.  The House cuts affordable housing by $284 million, largely eliminating this source of state funding.  The Senate cuts affordable housing by $94 million, including a cut of $17 million to the rental recovery loan program and $64 million cut to the CWHIP program (leaving $20 million in CWHIP to be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis for existing projects).  The Senate also transfers almost $30 million into the SHIP program to keep SHIP funded.  Affordable housing funding likely will be resolved in conference over the weekend.
3.  Wireless 911:
Both House and Senate proposals take more than $15 million from the wireless 911 trust fund of $19 million, leaving only $3.8 million.  This funding currently goes to 20 counties for matching grants (I believe including Miami-Dade).  As agreement has been reached, there will not be conferencing on this issue.
4.  Libraries:
The House cuts $4.3 million in statewide library grants, with cuts prorated among counties.  The Senate cuts $434,000 in library grants.  This issue will be resolved in conference.   
5.  Courts:
Courts are cut 1.25 percent rather than the standard 4 percent.  The House and Senate have agreed on increased fines and fees in the amount of $48 million to help fund the courts.  These increases to fines and fees include:
1.       A $25 increase to speeding tickets more than 15 mph over the speed limit;
2.       A $10 surcharge on all moving and nonmoving traffic violations, with $5 going to the courts, $3.33 going to the State Attorneys Office and $1.67 going to the Public Defenders;
3.       The 18 percent discount that currently applies to withhold adjudications and traffic school is removed;
4.       HSMV driver's license and tag later fees are increased from $12 to $16.
Judges would also lose discretion on some traffic fees and fines and would be required to impose them.  Conforming bills do not affect our UMSA and courthouse bond traffic surcharges.  The House and Senate appear to be in agreement on court funding issues.
6.  Traffic Hearing Officers:
A dedicated funding source for traffic hearing officers appears to be on the table for special session in both the House and Senate, although no language has yet been made available.
7.  Environmental:
Both the House and Senate divert environmental trust funds to cover the budget shortfall, including $26 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund and $8 million from the Water Management Lands Trust Fund.  Also, an additional $2 million that went to the South Florida Water Management District for Everglades Restoration from the FDOT Trust Fund is eliminated. 
8.  Corrections/Mental Health/Substance Abuse Grants:
The House eliminates $1 million in mental health and substance abuse grants, most of which flows to Miami-Dade.  The Senate preserves this funding.
9.  Visit Florida/State Film Office:
Both the House and Senate cut $7 million from the Visit Florida advertising campaign and $15 million from state film incentives.
10.  Economic Stimulus:

The Governor proposed a $100 million economic stimulus package, but the House and Senate are funding the proposal at only $10 million.
The House and Senate currently are conducting appropriations committee meetings through tomorrow.  The schedule is for the House and Senate each to pass their respective appropriations bills on the floor late this week.  The House and Senate will then appoint conferees and conference over the weekend on remaining issues between the House and Senate.  By Tuesday of next week, the House and Senate both are scheduled to pass the conference committee report and trigger the 72-hour waiting period before final passage on Friday, January 16, 2009. 
This round of $2.3 billion in cuts is largely viewed as a precursor to the larger $4 billion in cuts that will be necessary during the regular session starting in March for state fiscal year 2009-10.
Category: Legislation
Tags: Florida Budget Health Care Housing 911 Libraries Courts Traffic Environmental Mental Abuse Grants Stimulus