Democrats say Florida is dragging its feet and that Scott has used wildly inaccurate cost estimates to obstruct Medicaid expansion. They noted that a majority of Florida voters opposed a Republican-backed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would have allowed Florida to sidestep federal health mandates.
“To not do this would be morally reprehensible,” said House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation. “We’re talking about saving lives. That’s the role of government.”
Scott’s budget proposal would be the largest spending plan in state history, and is designed to showcase his support for education as he eyes a 2014 re-election bid.
Scott said the $1.3 billion cut in education spending during his first year was unavoidable because federal economic stimulus money was expiring. What he did not say was that he proposed a 10 percent cut to schools, larger than the 8 percent lawmakers approved in 2011.
Scott also championed a 3 percent cut in teachers’ pay last year, saying they needed to contribute to their state pensions.
“To have this sudden epiphany reeks of, ‘An election year is coming,’ ” said Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale.
Gaetz and Weatherford emphasized their shared support for different priorities, such as giving counties more flexibility to reduce voting lines, reforming Florida’s campaign finance system, holding elected officials to higher ethical standards and changing the Florida retirement system to a 401(k)-style system in which workers would make their own investment decisions.
Herald/Times Staff Writers Mary Ellen Klas and Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.