The problem with special referendums is that politicians always manage to phrase ballot questions to twist the voter's mind. Let's face it: most voters don't get out to vote for a question on a bond issue. They get out to vote for a new local government, and it just happens to be that there is another page with a referendum question on it. Citizens tend not to learn the issues thoroughly and just make up their minds according to how good the question sounds.
Well, on November 5th, Miami-Dade County voters will end up going to the polls to decide whether a new series of bonds should be issued by the Jackson Health Systems (JHS). It's really a simple question. Should we approve $830 million in bonds to upgrade the JHS facilities and software to make the hospital more competitive in South Florida?
Who could possibly vote against giving money to a hospital? Especially when this privately-funded public hospital desperately needs money to keep giving free coverage to 7% of its customers who happen to be undocumented immigrants with no health insurance.
The reality is much more complicated. We aren't technically talking about giving money. We're talking about the Jackson Health Systems selling bonds on the market and paying them back in the future with taxpayer money. And paying back $830 million plus interest will put Miami-Dade County into an unnecessary debt. After all, we just approved last year $1.2 billion in bonds for our public school district.
Jackson Health Systems don't need taxpayer subsidies to survive. It is consistently ranked as the nation's top hospital and breaks all charts in Florida. Its customers pay enough for the establishment to be one of the most charitable one in all of South Florida. On top of that, there are enough profits in the bank to pay for an army of lobbyists in Tallahassee.
Voters must not be led to believe that a vote against the referendum is a vote against the upgrade. Jackson should be free to upgrade its systems anytime it wants. But, just like in the recent Sun Life Stadium fiasco example, taxpayers should not be picking up the tab when the millionaire institute could easily cover the entire expenses.
In fact, County Commissioner Juan Zapata had one of the best proposals as he voted against putting the question on the November ballot. According to Zapata, there should be no taxpayer giveaway to JHS, and the whole system should be restructured into a not-for-profit institution that would be free of political games.
But if this isn't enough to make you think, then how about we take a look at the campaign treasurer reports of Citizens for a Healthy Miami-Dade PAC, the committee advocating for the upgrades.
In just three months of existence, and one month of active campaigning, the PAC has raised over $1.3 million. A lot of the money comes from small $10 donations. But the bulk of the money stinks of special interests trying to cut a deal for the upgrade contracts. Norman Braman, the auto mogul of Kendall, has put in $25,000. Banker Leonard Abess gave in $50,000, even though this might just be a little philanthropy on his side. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated by real estate companies, construction contractors, health insurers with connections to JHS, and a large pile of lobbyists from some of the dirtiest law firms in town.
It is obvious that the referendum has nothing to do with the upgrade. The upgrade could, and should be done privately. Indeed, if the goal is to keep JHS competitive, no dime from taxpayers would be used -to keep the field fair. Rather, this is all a big pretext to give millions of dollars to friends and business allies.
The Miami-Dade Libertarian Examiner thus recommends voters to vote NO on the special Miami-Dade election concerning Jackson Health Systems' taxpayer-funded upgrades.