Things are getting interesting, and a little heated, between Rick Scott and Republicans in the legislature in a fight over priorities and power struggles. If the problems didn't pose such serious consequences for Floridians who at this point merely pawns to the ruling party, their donors and lobbyists, it would be time to get out the popcorn. Unfortunately, any celebrations will only result from lessening the damage from this year's legislative session.
There have been calls for the Governor to veto the entire budget, from Democrats over the possibility that Republicans will take a pass on Medicaid, and from others over education cuts.
Scott has claimed he prefers the Senate version of Medicaid which would take $50 billion in federal funds, but the House version uses only state funds and the coverage is inadequate and would extend to less people. The Senate passed their version, but the House has so far refused to adopt the bill, which set off a standoff in the House today when Democrats called for the use of their "nuclear option" of reading the bills in full, causing more tension in the chamber between parties.
Scott turned his forced acceptance of Medicaid expansion into a campaign issue hoping that voters would "believe" his flip-flop was genuine, which of course, hasn't worked. Voters haven't forgotten that his entire career before running involved trying to kill off ObamaCare. If the legislature does nothing about Medicaid, which appears to be the likely outcome, they will drag him down with them in defeat. Unfortunately many Floridians will still go without insurance coverage and health care as a result of what House Speaker Will Weatherford says won't be "the end of the world." While his own family benefited from Medicaid, he has denied it to others, and in doing so, it's not a stretch to say people will die without it. For them it will be the "end of the world."
Adding to the tension, Charlie Crist, the potential challenger and spoiler to Scott's reelection pipe dreams, jumped into the fray today with a critical posting on Facebook:
It is really disappointing to watch the Legislature, particularly the Florida House of Representatives put ideology over the health care needs of working uninsured Floridians. The plan the Florida Senate has designed will build on one of the best public private health care partnerships in America, KidCare, and would provide more than 1 million working uninsured Floridians access to real private health insurance.
I know one thing, if this debate had happened during my term as Governor, the Legislature and I would have spent all summer in Tallahassee until we had done the right thing by the people that we all serve.
There has also been disagreement between Republicans and Scott over his education priorities, on everything from teacher raises to tuition hikes, more campaign fodder for Scott. With those in jeopardy thanks to the GOP, Scott has threatened to veto special projects of theirs.
Today Scott issued another warning over what he claimed was an "agreement" with them over sales tax on manufacturing equipment, another priority. Accusing them of stalling on the tax cuts, he said "It would be ridiculous not to cut taxes in a year when we have a budget surplus."
"They have to explain what they meant. I know that we had an agreement, a three-year agreement."
An analysis says repeal of the tax would result in a loss of about $140 million in sales tax revenue to the state, cities and counties. The budget before lawmakers is $74.5 billion, and is about $4 billion higher than current spending.
Scott didn't stop there: He directly criticized the Legislature for writing a budget that includes a 3 percent tuition increase on in-state students. To Scott, raising tuition is the same as raising taxes, which he also called "ridiculous."
"I'm reviewing the bills. I'm going to make the right decision for 19.2 million Floridians," Scott said. "I don't look at this as politics. I look at this as, how do you take care of people in our state?"
Hanging in the balance as leverage for Scott are three GOP legislative priorities, which Scott has to act on by Wednesday, campaign finance "reform," ethics, and in a new twist on the war on women, a law that would end or restrict alimony.
As Scott and Republicans fight it out among themselves, sadly the losers in either battle will be Floridians.