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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeff Atwater says no to Florida Medicaid expansion -- and Rick Scott challenge



Jeff Atwater may not be calling everyone's attention to his opposition to Gov. Rick Scott's plan to expand Medicaid in Florida as Adam Putnam has, but the Republican chief financial officer is on the same page.

"This is going to obligate us to either in future years to a legislature that will significantly change the tax code or this takes (away from) education dollars, transportation dollars and everything else," Atwater told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board today. "I look at the general revenue stream. It will not carry this. It's just that simple."

Florida would be better off watching to see how it plays out for at least a couple years — even if it means forgoing 100 percent federal funding of the expansion — before plunging ahead without more questions answered and alternative options developed, said Atwater.

His stance is shaped by his past experience - Florida spent $10-billion on Medicaid when he joined the Florida Senate in 2000 and currently spends about $31-billion - and presumably future plans. He is widely expected to run for governor in 2018, when Medicaid could be taking a much greater chunk out of the budget.

"I understand all the compassion. I'll put my record up against anybody when I was in the Legislature," he told the editorial board, which agrees with Gov. Scott that expanding Medicaid makes the most sense for Florida.

What about the speculation he might challenge Gov. Scott for the GOP nomination in 2014? "I see no conditions for that," Atwater said, downplaying Scott's vulnerability in 2014.

"Remember, Reagan was just getting clobbered in '82 and just smeered everybody in '84. Clinton lost everything in his midterm and then crushed Dole in the general. Barack Obama, Republicans said. 'With these unemployment rates, this is a sure win,' and he lost the House in the midterm and then he crushes (Romney)," Atwater said. "Every economic indicator, as modest as it is, is moving in the right direction, and (Scott) has done exactly what he set out to do. He's been focused on the budget, he's been focused on job creation."

[Last modified: Friday, March 1, 2013 2:28pm]


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