1. Opinion

Editorial: Scott pours gasoline on the fire

If this is leadership, Gov. Rick Scott should skip Tallahassee to find another Wawa to open.
If this is leadership, Gov. Rick Scott should skip Tallahassee to find another Wawa to open.
Published May 15, 2015

If this is leadership, Gov. Rick Scott should skip Tallahassee to find another Wawa to open. With a special session looming over a bitter House and Senate divide about modified Medicaid expansion money, the top elected official in the state should be helping the Legislature find a way forward in a reasonable compromise. That's what past, responsible governors would have done. Not Scott. He has taken a smoldering fire and poured on the gasoline, warning of a "government shutdown" and telling state agencies to draw up emergency lists of critical services in case no budget is adopted by midnight June 30.

His hardball tactics are meant to pressure the Senate into caving in and giving up on its plan to use Medicaid expansion dollars to provide private insurance to 800,000 uninsured Floridians. Instead, his actions are likely to harden positions and make progress more difficult, if not impossible. And talk of a "continuation budget" — unheard of in Florida but common in Louisiana, where his chief adviser last worked — just confuses and muddles the discussion.

Until Scott stomped into the fray, Senate and House budget negotiators had apparently been making progress. That indicated a better tone than the one just weeks ago when the House adjourned and quit early, giving up on accomplishing much of anything in the regular session.

The Senate has crafted a reasonable bipartisan plan to accept the Medicaid expansion money for private insurance for the poor and to gradually phase out the Low Income Pool, a $2 billion pot of public money that helps cover the cost of treating the uninsured.

The Obama administration has warned for more than a year that the current funding amount will expire at the end of June and that state reforms are necessary. Scott pretends to be unaware.

In a statement, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said he's "committed to passing a balanced budget by June 30" and pointedly reminded Scott that the Legislature, not the governor, develops the budget.

The Senate has said that budget talks must include the modified Medicaid expansion and state support to hospitals facing the loss of federal money to care for the poor.

That only makes sense. Those two matters will have a huge impact on state spending.

And yet, Scott calls those health care issues "controversial and divisive." No, they are common sense, which the Republican-dominated Senate fully understands and responsibly wants to address.

But instead of working with legislators, Scott has flip-flopped and dropped his support for Medicaid expansion, sued the Obama administration over the Low Income Pool, then met with the very federal official he is suing — in hopes of who knows what — and later disingenuously proposed that Florida hospitals share their profits.

And now he blames the state Senate for problems he has created and exacerbated.

If Scott were a true leader, he would let the House and Senate negotiators do their work while quietly pressuring them to keep at it until a reasonable compromise could be presented to their respective chambers. He would not grandstand with dire warnings about the collapse of a special session that hasn't even begun.