As Jeb Bush addressed the Legislature on the first day of the 2005 session, Bill Rettinger watched from the gallery. He was stunned by the governor’s 11th-hour announcement that Bush wants to fully fund the medically needy program Rettinger depends on to survive. Rettinger says he’s holding his breath.
"I’m cautiously optimistic. He may have asked for the funding for the first time in four years, but that doesn’t mean the funding is there," he says.
Jeb Bush found the nearly $400 million to continue the program for the coming year to avoid a battle on Medicaid reform. Bush says it’s two separate issues and he didn’t want tragic tales of people losing their only health care to derail his agenda.
Gov. Jeb Bush says, "I think taking it off the table so it can’t be used as a club to get people concerned to try to do something different was appropriate."
But the medically needy money does not come without a price. The governor’s supplemental budget request also comes with money for tax breaks that some lawmakers say Floridians don’t need or want.
Bush now wants to speed up a tax cut for Florida’s wealthiest citizens by eliminating taxes on investments in one year instead of two.
Democrats are throwing up their hands.
Rep. Chris Smith, House Minority Leader, (D) Ft. Lauderdale, says, "He puts in medically needy money, but then he also cuts the intangibles tax. We can never just get a good response or good legislation from this governor. He has to add in something bad every time."
But if lawmakers go along, at least medically needy patients will know their health care will be there for one more year. The governor had been facing an uphill battle with his proposal to eliminate all but prescription drug benefits for medically needy.
Both House Speaker Allan Bense and Senate President Tom Lee said they wanted to finance the program, and the governor’s last minute decision to find the money gives him a stronger bargaining position.