Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Flush with cash, Florida is stingy with needy

Gov. Rick Scott
Gov. Rick Scott wmichot@miamiherald.com

If it were not for the sliver of conscience left in the Florida Senate, we’d be a slam-dunk candidate for the No. 1 spot in the national rankings of Most Stingy State in the Nation.

It’s not that money is tight in our sunny peninsula. In fact, after years of ruthless cuts in services, we’re flush with cash.

The governor and the House just don’t want to use an additional $1 billion in revenues to serve those in need. The Senate wants to do the right thing: fund assistance programs — for children, the disabled and the elderly — that have endured major cuts under Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

This means another wasteful dog fight with the same lawmakers who, under the spell of Obamaphobia, refused to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid. With their own tax-payer funded “Cadillac insurance” policies in place, they find no sense of “prosperity” in funding the needy. The House, following Scott’s lead, wants to return the money to Floridians as a tax cut because we all could use more pennies in our pockets instead of more conscience and generosity of spirit. This, so Republicans can claim at election time that they gave a tax cut – and pass the fact-check. But saving a couple of bucks on a license plate is meaningless nonsense.

What real-world difference could $1 billion make?

Soothe a low-income elderly person’s toothache. Medicare doesn’t cover dental care and many elderly go without it and live in pain. But a state stipend to cover a periodontal cleaning, cavity filling, or exam can go a long way to healing some real pain.

In some states, publicly operated universities offer free dental care for the elderly. It’s a win-win for dentistry students and patients. But in Florida, even the poverty-stricken elderly have to pay when they seek help at a state facility. Scores of elderly without enough resources deal with their toothaches with over-the-counter ointments and pills instead of appropriate medical solutions.

Another need: Save the lives of children and teens.

Fund a dedicated team of seasoned investigators to address youth killings in areas like Miami-Dade, where children are gunned down at alarming rates. Sniff out the causes and take action. Politicians doing the walk in the neighborhoods and expressing outrage is no longer enough. Parents demanding justice after the fact is not enough. And no, a $3,000 reward for information won’t cut it either.

“The carnage continues in Miami-Dade with overnight shooting that claims the life of 16-year old and critically injures 15-year old,” schools Superintendent Alberto Carvahlo tweeted on Presidents’ Day.

The man is constantly on television, addressing not the ABCs but the latest bullets to pierce through the walls of a community.

Miami-Dade needs intervention — now.

What a sad state of affairs — elderly suffering and kids routinely murdered, to name only two of the indignities on opposite ends of the human spectrum. And state leaders are sitting on a billion dollars having ideological arguments about what to with it.

That’s leadership in the Most Stingy State in the Nation.