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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 13, 2012 8 years ago

Capitol Chatter: April 13

In government vs. government, it's taxpayer vs. self
by: Rod Thomson Staff Writer

In government vs. government,
it's taxpayer vs. self

Florida counties are not happy with the state's decision to attempt to collect nearly $300 million in Medicaid payments from the counties.

So unhappy, in fact, that they may head to court over it.

The Legislature voted to require counties to pay 85% of unpaid Medicaid bills during the next five years that the state said are owed. The counties have claimed that the state's billing system is full of errors. Gov. Rick Scott said all the sides agreed that claims should be paid and that the state would work to make sure each paid claim is valid.

However, the counties wanted the bill vetoed, and when Scott signed it the Florida Association of Counties announced it was considering a lawsuit.

But this is not a case of a local government against the state government. It is all 67 counties against the state, involving the same group of taxpayers either way. It is just that one level of government wants the other to be responsible for paying the bills.

But to determine who must, the counties would use taxpayer money to sue the state, which would defend itself with more taxpayer money, to see which government entity is responsible for some unpaid Medicaid bills — when it's all the same taxpayers ultimately paying the bills.

Detert yanks veil
off vote-trading

Those who have followed Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, since she was a Sarasota County School Board member in the early 1990s, can always count on her acerbic wit and ability to hit the heart of an issue while not sound remotely like a politician.

She clobbered another one at last week's Sarasota Tiger Bay meeting in which seven legislators were on the dais for a long, post-session legislative wrap-up.

Explaining why she voted against the prison privatization even though she opposed it, she said she counted all the votes several times, and they always came out 20-20. It was going to lose because a tie kills a bill. So she voted “no” because — and this is where her sometimes stunning honesty can leave a crowd speechless -- “I've got stuff of mine.”

With those five words, she revealed exactly what everyone knows goes on, but is never spoken: Legislators sometimes cast votes for the sole reason of getting other legislators or leadership to back their own bills. Vote trading, pure and simple. There were people opposed to prison privatization whose support she needed for her own bills. So she could get away with going against party leadership supporting the bill because it would lose anyway, while at the same time getting those other politicians' votes.

Leave it to Detert to just up and say it in front of nearly 200 people.

Hillsborough wins
race for dough

Hillsborough County topped the list of Florida counties getting allocations from the Legislature this session as part of the state budget.

Hillsborough brought in $1.2 billion, edging out Miami-Dade's $1.1 billion. After that, the amounts drop sharply, with Alachua County getting $527 million -- largely on the shoulder's of the University of Florida funding — and Duval County at $519 million.

Funding for the remaining Gulf Coast counties was as follows:
Pinellas — $358 million
Lee — $153 million
Pasco — $132 million
Sarasota -- $85 million
Manatee — $50 million
Collier — $42 million
Charlotte — $29 million

The funding ranges from road construction to prisons to health facilities, but the totals could change slightly depending on Gov. Rick Scott's veto pen.

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