The looming prospect of larger Medicaid rolls as a result of the recently passed healthcare reform law could bankrupt states, Florida state Sen. Paula Dockery told Newsmax.TV.
The new law imposes a requirement that states cover everyone earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line in their Medicaid programs.
Dockery, a candidate for her state’s Republican gubernatorial nomination against Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, has served in Florida’s state Senate since 2002 and was previously elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1996, serving as majority whip in both chambers. She considers herself a Reagan conservative and has received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association for her support of gun rights. The Florida Catholic Conference has also recognized her as a “Defender of Life” for her opposition to abortion.
Each year, Florida spends approximately $18 billion of its $60 billion state budget to fund its Medicaid program alone, which serves 2.8 million Floridians out of the state’s total population of 18 million.
“That’s a terrible statistic, and it’s unsustainable,” Dockery said. “So the one thing we can do is to take away the factors that make them eligible, and that is low income. People need to get back to work, and when people get back to work, eligibility roles decrease and we don’t need as much money.
“And getting more people into an already overburdened Medicaid system is going to be extremely tough for the states to absorb.”
When asked by Newsmax.TV where Florida and other states would have to make cuts to accommodate increased Medicaid rolls, Dockery said it is too early to tell how much money the states will receive from the federal government to subsidize the state-run program.
“Let’s be honest here, whether it’s federal tax dollars, state tax dollars or local tax dollars, it’s all coming from taxpayers,” she said. “Whether it comes from your front pocket or your back pocket; it’s taxpayers' money, and at some point we are going to have to live within our means. And that means that government can’t do everything for everyone.”
Florida’s GOP-led state government could do a better job reducing wasteful spending and adjusting its fiscal house to deal with the current economic situation, which has hit the state hard, says Dockery.
“For the past three years we’ve been cutting, but there are still areas where we are spending money where we shouldn’t be,” Dockery said. “In touch economic times, just like everybody in their own families are having to prioritize their spending, government needs to do the same thing. We shouldn’t be spending more now; we should be cutting those projects that are not absolutely essential and doing what every family is doing, and that is cutting back on anything that could be deferred.
“When we say that we are fiscal conservatives; we need to act like we are fiscal conservatives and we’re not.”
Should she become governor, Dockery says private-sector job creation would be her priority. She believes “burdensome regulations” and paper that get in the way of “Mom and Pop” small businesses and their ability to thrive should be eliminated.
“We need to give them the tools they need and not have them compete with larger corporations we’re luring in here with tax incentives that put them at an economic disadvantage,” Dockery told Newsmax.TV. “Government can help by stopping helping other businesses.”
She contends more jobs will be created by encouraging “Mom and Pop” small businesses to hire workers because they are the ‘backbone” of Florida’s economy, not large corporations that politicians cut backroom deals to lure them in. Small businesses also would be helped by lowering the state’s tax burden.
Florida also needs to broaden its economy beyond its current three main industries ̶ agriculture, tourism and house starts to prosper, Dockery said.
The state’s agriculture and tourism industries have done reasonably well amid the recession, but Florida’s housing industry has been particularly hard-hit. Although theme park attendance at places like Disney World and Universal Studios have been down, the state has seen an increase in ecotourism.
“We can no longer rely on those three industries, we need to diversify,” Dockery said. “Energy resources could be helpful; I think we need to look at what we going to do with all of those intelligent folks out on the Space Coast, and decide what’s going to happen with our space industry now that the president seems wanting us to veer away from what we’ve done so well here in Florida for decades.”
When asked about the Obama administration’s drilling announcement, Dockery told Newsmax.TV she would need to see the details and feel assured drilling would not happen immediately offshore such that it could damage the state’s ecotourism industry or empower enemies of our nation to obtain drilling leases.
Other highlights of the Newsmax.TV interview included:
- Dockery says she shares a lot in common with McCollum on issues such as crime, but she differs with him in terms of leadership, personality and style.
- When asked about the rise of women in politics nationwide, she expressed her excitement with the prospect of becoming Florida’s first female governor and the prospect of running against Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who also is a woman.
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