Rick Scott and the icy makings of a Florida government shutdown

Rick Scott and the icy makings of a Florida government shutdown

“What I believe is going to happen is this: We’ll just have a continuation budget, which will mean we’ll have about an $8 billion surplus. … We’ll just do what we’ve done this last year. We won’t put more money into schools, which I wanted to do. We won’t cut taxes, which I wanted to do. We’ll just leave the money there, and deal with it in our next session, which starts in January.” – Gov. Rick Scott on Fox News’ On the Record with Greta Van Susteren

By the time this bit of political whittling has been digested by the huddled, sunburnt masses yearning to be treated fairly in Florida, there will likely have been an actual call for a special session of the Florida Legislature beginning June 1, because if there isn't, then – at least according to the smoke signals being sent by Gov. Rick Scott's administration and its circling wagons of defensiveness – we are headed for a shutdown on July 1.

That date, you see, is the end of everything, given that Florida's House of Representatives slammed its Trapper Keepers shut days prior to finalizing a budget or even a legislative session earlier this spring. Medicaid expansion was almost too hot of a button to touch for most of the ice-hearted conservative legislative majority, even if the Senate – via Orlando-based Senate President and Republican Andy Gardiner – was able to (once again) dress up the proposition of saving a million lives as something that could be pitched to the idiot base as a free-market option.

$8 billion Amount Gov. Rick Scott told Fox News that the state had in surplus budgetary funds for 2015-2016; a spokesperson later confirmed that Scott meant $1.8 billion, but who’s counting?

Now, however, Scott – who seems to be mimicking the "yee-haw" suicide maneuvers of Slim Pickens grabbing his slim pickings and jumping off a bomber (see Dr. Strangelove) in the name of stubborn dignity and, well, idiocy – is throwing in a dangerous towel. We don't buy it, and nor should you, but Scott's reasoning seems to be that if he is going to alienate every entity that is not a business in this state, then it might as well involve those who loosely operate within his own "party" as well – even though Scott was more green tea than Republican when he purchased his way into this mess. Or, perhaps, for that very reason.

But even those in the Republican brass aren't biting that party line, according to the Tampa Bay Times, because Scott's notion of a "continuation budget," one that would simply carry over last year's expenditures at the cost of even his agenda (not to mention the agendas associated with the state's ever-growing population) into next year, is wholly unnecessary. Even though they do not agree on Medicaid expansion, Senate President Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, are throwing their hands up in the air over this notion of a government shutdown. Scott's been watching too many outdated national C-Span feeds, it seems, to understand that our state government can't operate on a deficit, that there will be cuts to virtually everything, including the pet projects legislators trot out to increase their donor pools and their re-elections in the coming presidential election year.

"I don't think anybody really understands what a continuation budget is," Gardiner told the Times. "We've always intended to come back and do the budget." Crisafulli agrees.

So what we have here is a failure to communicate. What we don't have here, however, is a true precedent. Scott's chief of staff, Melissa Sellers, as we all know, is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's former employee, and Louisiana kicks the budget can regularly. Moreover, it's worth noting that Scott is being dishonest here, because if the bifurcated Legislature is willing to work out its own compromises in time for the constitutional summer deadline, what business does he have going on national television – cough, Fox News – and throwing a grenade into its negotiations?

$77 billion Scott’s proposed budget for 2015-2016, including $673 million in tax cuts

Meanwhile, you know what programs suffer when critical services are tabled (and this is from the state's budget office, not some liberal watchdog group trying to eat your conservative babies): the Department of Corrections, Juvenile Justice, Health and Children and Families, upkeep of public schools, existing Medicaid expenditures, the Department of Transportation Work Program, the environment, funds for nationally declared disasters and the National Guard, housing and economic development – and the list goes on. All for what? A grudge match over Medicaid expansion and the inability of a man who defrauded Medicare to understand the needs of the working poor.

"It's a continuation of killing hard-working Floridians who can't have health insurance because of their governor," Organize Now director Stephanie Porta says. "He'll stop at nothing."

And he can't be stopped.

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