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Gov. Rick Scott: Shutdown Impact 'Minimal'

July 25, 2011 - 6:00pm

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday said Florida is ready to weather a potential federal shutdown and if he were put in congressional shoes hed oppose efforts to raise the federal debt ceiling.

Scott conceded that the nation, which has never failed to pay its bills, is entering new territory if Republican lawmakers and President Barack Obama cannot reach an agreement, but he added that financial markets have likely already figured in such a scenario and would not overreact if it comes to pass.

I dont think anybody knows because its never happened, but I believe the markets understand where the federal government is, Scott said. They understand where the spending is so I think the market has already priced it in.

Scott said his office did an analysis in April when federal shutdown talks first began and determined the impact to Florida would be minimal. The governor said Monday that view has not changed, but the extent to which a shutdown would affect the state will depend on a host of unknowns that the state has minimal control over.

Well have to see what they pay and what they dont pay, Scott said.

Others arent so optimistic. With 2.9 million Medicaid recipients and thousands more on Food Stamps and other federal assistance, the potential of a government shutdown Aug. 2 could prompt the loss of critical services at a time when Floridians have already been subject to the most severe recession since the Great Depression.

Carol Weissert, political scientist and director of the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University, said bedrock federal programs like Social Security and Medicare will likely not be affected, but Medicaid may not be so lucky if lawmakers have to choose what programs to fund. Other vulnerable areas are grants to states for education and transportation programs.

I would say we are entering into new territory, Weissert said. And I do not believe that it is fertile ground.

In April, more than 3 million Floridians receive Food Stamps through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The figure represents an 18.3 percent increase in the number of Food Stamp recipients from April 2010.

Meanwhile, Florida's Medicaid program costs $20 billion a year, with more than half of that coming from the federal government. The program is run through the Agency for Health Care Administration.

AHCA is monitoring the situation in Washington, said agency spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman. It is too early to comment on how the federal governments budget negotiations may affect services provided by AHCA.

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