We don’t need no stinkin’ U.S. tax dollars

The Miami Herald

We don’t need no stinkin’ U.S. tax dollars


Earlier this summer, a panel of low-wattage trolls known as the Legislative Budget Commission spurned $2.1 million of a federal grant designed to transition ill and elderly Floridians out of nursing facilities and back to their homes.The program, which started under President George W. Bush, is designed to save states millions in Medicaid costs because residential care for older citizens is less expensive than long-term institutional care.

To that end, the feds offered Florida – which has one of the nation’s largest populations of seniors – almost $36 million in phased grants. No thanks, said geniuses like Rep. Rob Schenck of Spring Hill and Rep. Denise Grimsley of Sebring.

Because the Bush program, Money Follows the Person, was renewed as part of the Obama administration’s controversial health-care reform package, most GOP legislators on the panel declined to participate.

This astoundingly stupid strategy of sending our U.S. tax dollars to other states is the hatchling of House Speaker Dean Cannon, cheered on by Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican zombies.

The money for moving sick and older residents back home was unnecessary, said Grimsley and Schenck, because state agencies already try to do that. That might come as a surprise to those with relatives in Florida nursing homes.

Even though no state funds were at stake, the members of the Legislative Budget Commission want you to believe that they rejected the $2.1 million seniors grant because of their staunch frugality. But guess what else they did at the same meeting?

They unanimously voted to hand out a total of $7.5 million to two business firms that were considering expanding operations in Florida or moving here. Here’s the best part: The lawmakers weren’t even given the names of the corporations — one was coded “Project Equis,” the other “Project Christmas.”

I’m totally serious. And these yahoos forked over the money anyway.

This is Florida’s so-called leadership in the year 2011. Screw the sick, poor and elderly, and grovel worshipfully before any half-assed company with a letterhead and a lobbyist.

To keep their punitive streak going, lawmakers also nixed more than $50 million in federal child-abuse prevention funds (because, gosh, we don’t have a sickening problem with child abuse here, do we?)

As before, the money was killed only because it was attached to the administration’s health-care legislation, which many lawmakers say is unconstitutional. Yet the grants being rejected have no relation to the sections of the law being challenged in court.

One casualty of politics is a program in which nurses visit homes where there is a known risk of child abuse or neglect, and counsel young parents. The goal is not only to save lives but also to save the state tons of money. Victims of long-term child abuse often end up in hospitals, foster care or eventually prison, at a perpetuating cost to Florida taxpayers.

Healthy Families Florida, whose work protecting children at risk has been much praised, would have run the visiting nurses program. After the $50 million from Uncle Sam was rebuffed, nobody in Tallahassee would stand up and take the blame.

The House, the Senate and the governor’s office all claimed they had nothing to do with sabotaging the grant. It was just one of those mysterious things.

Not so easy to deny was the Legislature’s whacking of $10 million from the Healthy Families state budget, which administrators estimate will cut services to about 6,000 children in 4,000 families.

Lawmakers also squashed a U.S. grant to enlarge two community health centers and build a third in Osceola County. State officials likewise turned their backs on a pilot Medicaid project that would have reimbursed medical providers up to $2 million for hospice services to children who are gravely ill.

Suck it up, kids. You don’t need no stinking U.S. tax dollars.

With a $3.7 billion budget hole and the nation’s second-highest rate of uninsured residents, Florida is rejecting more federal health-care funds than any other state. This is a matter of button-busting pride to Speaker Cannon and also to the governor, who continues to float through his own squirrelly parallel universe.

The same guy who made a fortune from overbilled Medicare payouts to his hospitals recently sat down with a New York Times reporter to reiterate his distaste for U.S. assistance.

Said Scott: “There are a lot of programs that the federal government would like to give you that don’t fit your state, don’t fit your needs and ultimately create obligations that your taxpayers can’t afford.”

Sure. Why throw money away on abused children when you can spend it on something really important, like Project Equis?

Maybe someday, if we behave, they’ll even tell us what it is.

© 2011 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

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