February 2nd, 2012 by Whitney Ray
Nurses and teachers say they’re being pitted against each other in a tug-o-war battle for state cash. Lawmakers are trying to balance the budget with two billion fewer dollars. They plan to cut two billion dollars from heath care and increase education spending by a billion. As Whitney Ray tells us, nurses and teachers joined forces today in Tallahassee to announce they will not compete in a budget tug-o-war.
They grasped the rope tightly; teachers on one side, nurses on the other. The tug-o-war publicity stunt is symbolic of how education and health care workers say they’re being treated by state budget writers.
“We are not going to make this a fight between public education and public health care dollars to save our children’s education or to save their health care,” said SEIU Local 1991 President Martha Baker.
If there is a war, then teachers are winning. The governor and House budget proposals increase education funding by a billion dollars. Health care is facing a two billion dollar reduction.
Cutting two billion dollars from Medicaid would only save the state 400 million dollars; because most of Florida’s health care money comes from federal matching grants. Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich says the cut doesn’t make fiscal sense.
“You are dealing with 1.4 billion of federal revenue that we would not draw down for use in health care,” said Rich.
Rich says neither teachers nor nurses need to keep tugging on the rope for more money. She has a plan to raise state revenues, by ending corporate tax loopholes.
“We are not talking about tax increases. We are talking about making everybody pay their fair share of taxes that are already on the books,” said Rich.
With that in mind the two sides dropped the rope and joined forces to support the Fair Economy Act. So now they’ll be tugging it out with Republican lawmakers who see eliminating the loopholes as a tax increase. To avoid paying state taxes, some multi-state businesses with locations in Florida shift their profits to states with tax exemptions specific to their businesses. It’s completely legal. The Fair Economy Act would make it illegal.