Community leaders asked hard-hitting questions—and pitched support of local projects—to Alachua County’s legislative delegation at the University of Florida Eye Opener Discovery Breakfast Wednesday (Sept. 11).
The legislators replied candidly at the event, held at the Hilton UF Conference Center.
Would the legislators favor a plan that would combine state and federal funds with a renewal of the expired CHOICES sales tax to create a model local health care program? That question came from Allan March, representing the CHOICES Advisory Board.
State Sen. Rob Bradley, Rep. Keith Perry and Rep. Clovis Watson said they were open-minded about the innovation suggestion, and they used the question as a springboard to discuss the Affordable Care Act.
During the last legislative session, the Florida House rejected a proposal for the state to participate an expansion of Medicaid that federal funds primarily would have funded as part of Obamacare.
Republicans Perry and Bradley said the defeat of the Medicaid expansion proposal was justified because the Medicaid program is broken.
Democrat Watson differed, saying that hospitals still will face the costs of serving the uninsured but they won’t have the benefit of added federal dollars.
Businessman Jeff Montgomery asked for support of restoring Glen Springs, once a prime local swimming and recreation spot.
All three legislators embraced the project, but they noted that getting legislative support for local projects like this is tough today.
Alachua County’s legislative delegation is four (including Rep. Elizabeth Porter), while the Miami-Dade delegation totals 42 members, Perry noted.
The trio celebrated increased legislative funding designed to improve UF’s standing among public universities such as the University of North Carolina and the University of California Berkeley. “We did it. It’s done,” Bradley said of the targeted budget boost approved for UF.
Florida is in a great position to flourish economically because of its pro-business climate, Perry said. The state has eliminated the deficits it faced at the height of the recession without increasing taxes, he noted. “There hasn’t been any more burden on individuals or businesses,” he said.
As the state works on creating prosperity, it needs to address poverty, Perry said. “We can’t forget the large segment of our population that has the least amount of opportunity,” he added.