Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
The Tallahassee Democrat on Gov. Scott still prefers leaner government:
The proposed 2013-2014 spending plan that lawmakers agreed upon this month, in what was viewed as a more fruitful year, faced the same fate as budgets proposed in the lean years of the recent past.
Thanks to Gov. Rick Scott's swift vetoes of items amounting to nearly $370 million, this year's spending plan was reduced to $74.1 billion.
While Scott took on a new persona during this year legislative session by putting most of his chips on winning pay raises for schoolteachers and agreeing to proposals by lawmakers to boost the salaries of state workers for the first time in years, Monday's cuts shows that Scott is still not about to budge when it comes to spending on special projects inserted by lawmakers hoping to win some points back home.
While spending for state workers, teachers and even the university system will bring benefits to this community, the Big Bend region didn't fare especially well on special projects.
For instance. ...
At the same time, the budget leaves in place additional money for exceptional education programs, technology improvements in rural schools and, for the first time in eight years according to the Governor's Office, additional money for the Developmental Disabilities Medicaid Waiver program in an effort to remove more than 750 people currently on the waiting list.
Scott's summary of the spending plan reiterates the belief that Florida government spends too much and can make do with a leaner workforce.
A portion of Scott's summary reads:
"The Florida Families First budget includes $1.2 billion in taxpayer savings. This budget also reflects the smallest state government workforce per 1,000 residents in Florida in this century. The Florida Families First budget is one of our state's smallest budgets this century, when adjusted for population growth and inflation."
Scott said he would watch every dollar, and he is. That's not necessarily good news for this government town.
Orlando Sentinel on rein in pay and perks for Florida college presidents:
Start with a six-figure base salary for state college presidents. Add five figures for their retirement, another five for deferred compensation and another five for housing.
In some cases, add another five figures for a vehicle and another five for major medical. Throw in a host of "other compensation benefits" and pretty soon you're talking real money.
Too much, really, to be fair to students struggling to pay for a college education.
And too much for taxpayers.
These extravagant compensation packages for the presidents of Florida's state colleges, formerly known as community colleges, were revealed this month in a state audit. In handing out pay and perks, it looks like too many college boards of trustees approach the negotiating table with a blank check, rather than a posture of protecting the public purse.
Look no further than Edison State College in Fort Myers, where ex-president Kenneth Walker got $837,085 a year. ...
Gov. Rick Scott deserves credit for ordering the audit, which found presidential pay and benefits vary widely — from $144,000 at North Florida Community College to more than $630,000 at Miami-Dade College — often with no clear rationale. Only eight of Florida's 28 state colleges tie their presidents' pay to performance.
The Florida Legislature passed a law in 2010 that limits pay for presidents to $225,000 a year from taxpayers. But the law allows trustees to supplement salaries with private funds, and the average president's compensation has swelled to $350,403.
Scott says he wants taxpayers to get the best return on our investment in higher education. Now that he's pulled back the curtain on presidential perks, we encourage him to rein in the increases, set clear performance measures and restore public confidence that our dollars aren't simply going to support the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
The Miami Herald on stopping Medicare fraud:
In the latest roundup of accused Medicare fraudsters, Miami is once again one of the main players. Literally. One of the men indicted is local actor Roberto F. Marrero. The TV bit-player ( "Miami Vice," ''America's Most Wanted") and his wife, Sandra Fernandez Viera, are accused of submitting $20 million in false claims to the taxpayer-funded federal Medicare program.
Miami has long had the sorry reputation for being the nation's leader in Medicare fraud, with seemingly just about anybody — from convicted felons to, well, actors — accused of cashing in on what's supposed to be a medical safety net for the country's elderly and disabled. How can this happen? And keep on happening? Where is the federal safety net that weeds out the unqualified or corrupt from getting carte blanche to bilk the American public at a cost of untold millions?
The federal Medicare Fraud Strike Force has been diligently swooping in on fraudsters since 2010, commendably so. But another part of Medicare, the administration arm that certifies that caregivers who tap into Medicare reimbursements are actually qualified to do so and then verifies that they actually deliver the services they vouch for, must be much more diligent. ...
The two have also been accused of paying thousands of dollars a month to a recruiter, Enrique Rodriguez, to supply them with patients possessing Medicare cards. Mr. Rodriguez is accused of bribing patients under the indictment.
In all, the indictment snagged 89 people from Miami, Detroit and Los Angeles, who together are charged with cheating Medicare of a total of $223 million. Many of those indicted are health care workers — doctors, nurses, clinic operators and therapists.
That's to be — sad to say — expected. But how does a medical lay person get qualified to deal in Medicare-reimbursed health services?
Marrero and Viera are innocent until proven guilty, of course, but their indictment once again raises questions about how well Medicare vets individuals who apply for licenses to dispense health care services in this country.
The federal strike force — set up in Miami and eight other regions believed to harbor legions of Medicare con artists — is doing a great job of ferreting out licensed fraudsters. This is the sixth national indictment of major Medicare fraud offenders in the last two years. It's no easy task, and it takes time and patience to build a credible case.
But this huge problem needs toughening up at the front end in order to stem a growing number of scammers. Much, much more needs to be done to weed out the would-be con artists before they are allowed to set up shop and start pillaging a vital federal health care program.