The largest state budget in Florida history is closer to becoming reality.
The Florida Senate passed its $80 billion plan, which includes federal funding to expand Medicaid. It's a move the chamber's Republican leaders say they had to make, even though they've never been enthusiastic about Medicaid.
The motivating factor? The federal government has threatened to revoke $1.3 billion in hospital funding called the "low income pool." Losing that money with no backup plan could throw the budget into the red.
Now Medicaid expansion advocates are on the air with an ad pressuring GOP leaders in the Florida House of Representatives to follow suit.
The spending plan that chamber is about to vote on doesn't have a penny for expansion, and that's what brought U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to Tallahassee for a face-to-face meeting with House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.
"I wanted to make sure that they understood the position of the Department of HHS and I think some people here are in denial that that's the case, but that's their position, and this money for low-income pool runs out June the 30th," Nelson said.
In the House, nothing turns heads quite like a strong set of numbers, and for two years now, Republican leaders have argued the numbers on Medicaid expansion don't add up, with the potential to stick taxpayers with a multibillion dollar bill.
With a Medicaid-free budget about to pass, though, that math could be changing, leading to a deficit that threatens everything from a GOP tax cut package to funding for schools and roads.
Republican Rep. Tom Goodson said things stand where they've always stood, but he also said, "We have another month. Anything could happen."
The state House is set to vote on its budget plan Thursday. From there, the two chambers will try to come up with a compromise plan.
Capitol insiders say the rift over Medicaid is so large, it could take a special legislative session later in the year to resolve the impasse.