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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Charlie Crist: Rick Scott was 'stealing from sick people' as CEO



David Straz, a retired banker and one of Tampa Bay's most prominent philanthropists, endorsed Charlie Crist for governor Wednesday. "I intend to support him a a big way," Straz, a Republican and former Rick Scott supporter, said inside the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.

"It is the responsibility of each of us to give back to our communities," said Straz, who contributed an estimated $25-million to the Performing Arts Center. "Unfortunately some outsiders come to Florida and just take. Rick Scott took from Floridians as a CEO and he is still taking from out state. He took away high speed transportation and jobs from the city of Tampa. He wanted to take away $4.8-billion from education and he took away access to affordable health care for 1.1-million Floridians."

Crist gave his own blistering assessment of Gov. Scott, contrasting Scott's business experience to Straz's.

"David's a businessman. We've got a guy in the governor's mansion who calls himself a businessman -- but not a good one in my humble opinion," Crist said. " You all know the story. His company had to pay the largest fine for Medicare fraud in the history of the United States of America at the time -- $1.7-billion. What kind of company was it? It was a health care company, HCA Columbia. And what did they do? They took money from poor people. They upcoded. You know what upcoding is? It's a fancy word that means they charged too much. When you charge too much you're stealing. And you're stealing from sick people, and that's wrong. I can't believe he's governor. But in seven months we can fix it and get Florida back on track."

As about the auto registration fees that went up with Crist in charge and now are dropping under Scott's leadership, Crist made no apologies.

"We had to get through a tough time, and sometimes you have to make difficult decisions. The fees went up on automobiles and we got through a time time. And we saved thousands of teachers jobs, law enforcement officers' jobs, firefighters' jobs. We maintained a decent economy that was struggling worse than it ever had since the Great Depression itself, and as a result before I left office we were starting to turn around Florida's economy. I'm very proud of that."

UPDATE:The Rick Scott campaign jumped on Crist's contention that "we maintained a decent economy" under his watch.

"What alternate universe does Charlie Crist live in? Apparently 832,000 jobs lost and an unemployment rate more than tripling is Charlie’s definition of a decent economy," Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair said. "And even during a global recession, why was Florida’s jump in unemployment the 2nd largest out of all 50 states? Why was Florida one of only four states to go from below to above the national average in unemployment?"

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 9:09pm]


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