Laptop and notebook


Jason Bangos Feb. 15, 2012

The Florida Legislature needs to provide the third branch of government in this state with consistent, reliable funding.

Revenue is currently provided from foreclosure filing fees. Even then, the courts receive only two-thirds of the revenue. And the fees, by their nature, tend to go through hills and valleys.

That’s no way to fund the courts.

Florida doesn’t do well in comparison to neighboring states. The percentage of state budgets allocated to the judicial branch, according to the American Bar Association:

- Arkansas: 3.5 percent

- Kentucky: 3.5 percent

- Georgia: 0.9 percent

- Florida: 0.7 percent

The Legislature should set a revenue benchmark and then supplement the foreclosure fees when it is necessary.

The Florida Bar would like to set up a reserve account, as well.

“Floridians paid $1 billion in court fees, the court imposed fines and other court costs last year,” the Bar said on its website.

“Court and clerks received only 65 percent of those funds; the general revenue fund and other governmental entities received the rest. The courts and the clerks have been net revenue generators for state government.”

This recommended revenue structure proposes a trade-off: In exchange for stable funding for courts and clerks on a month-to-month basis, any windfalls in court generated revenues will go to the state budget.

So far that is basically what has happened in the House budget, moving court funding from the general fund, not totally reliant on foreclosure fees. Funding also would be held stable throughout much of the justice system, as well.

It’s a big improvement.

Jobs and education

Wells Fargo Economics Group has been studying structural unemployment, the disconnect between the skills of workers and demand for them.

There are major regional disparities for structural unemployment, as well.

And the regions that do better are ones that have more four-year colleges per capita.

More education leads to better chances of a good job.

That lesson came through loud and clear in a National Urban League special section in Time magazine. The Urban League specializes in workforce training.

High-level skills are needed, especially those with math and science components.

Beyond the job, however, research shows that people with college educations tend to have healthier lifestyles, to be adaptable to change and to have a higher quality of life.

What colleges teach is the ability to learn over a lifetime.

It just reinforces the belief that an investment in quality education is an investment in America’s future.

Co-pays for Medicaid

The federal government turned down a proposal from the state of Florida to require co-pays by Medicaid patients.

Examples are $10 monthly premiums or $100 co-pays for non-emergency visits.

There were concerns expressed by Georgetown University researchers that the poor simply would not use Medicaid if the payments were too high.

So make the payments smaller, but there is a worthwhile principle here.

Health care should not be considered a free service. And consumers throughout the health care system ought to have incentives to use it more efficiently.

A plan within the Medicaid pilot in Northeast Florida counties attempted to provide incentives for payments to adopt healthy practices.

In return, they could use credits to purchase items. It didn’t have much success at first. But the principle still was a good one.

Targeting usage in health care

One key to controlling high health care costs for the uninsured is to focus on a small proportion of heavy users of hospital emergency rooms.

These tend to be people with multiple health issues who are not being managed through regular health care.

In the book “What the Dog Saw,” author Malcolm Gladwell noted that the University of California, San Diego, Medical Center, followed 15 inebriates.

Over 18 months, these 15 people racked up 417 ER visits and ran up bills averaging $100,000 each. One person visited the ER 87 times.

Funding roads

It’s clear that America should be rebuilding its crumbling roads, bridges and other public infrastructure.

One world ranking places the U.S at 23rd between Chile and Spain, reports the Economist.

The Congressional Budget Office says that $80 billion a year could be spent on infrastructure that would produce an economic return.

But analysts figure that something as massive as the Hoover Dam could never be built, given the regulations built into the system.

Meanwhile, the Keystone pipeline, which had already survived lengthy environmental reviews and required minimal changes for approval, has been placed on yet another major review.


From President Barack Obama in comments following his changes to coverage of contraception in health care insurance:

“My first job in Chicago was working with Catholic parishes in poor neighborhoods, and my salary was funded by an arm of the Catholic Church.

“And I saw that local churches often did more good for a community than a government program ever could, so I know how important the work that faith-based organizations do and how much impact they can have in their communities.

“We live in a pluralistic society where we’re not going to agree on every single issue or share every belief. That doesn’t mean that we have to choose between individual liberty and basic fairness for all Americans.”