Rick Scott, Tax-and-Spend Tea Partier?

Fla. Governor Rick Scott (R), who chopped $300 million out of the higher education budget last year, talks about his plans to boost education spending.<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/flgovscott/8471792268/in/photostream/">Gov. Scott's Photostream</a>/Flickr

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has discovered the hard way that devotion to tea party economics has a significant downside—namely that the voters really hate it.

Elected in 2010 on a wave of tea party anger, Scott took office promising to slash spending, lower taxes and shrink the size and reach of the state government. And that he did. As my latest magazine feature documents, Scott’s first two state budgets cut state funding for everything from environmental protection to education, and he made a show of rejecting millions in federal funding for high-speed rail and health care  programs, just on principle.

Two years and many millions in cuts later, Scott is one of the country’s most unpopular governors. And now that Scott is facing reelection next year, he’s  changing his tune about government spending. The budget he presented to the state legislature this month was nearly $10 billion larger than the one he unveiled (at a tea party rally) in 2011, and the largest ever proposed in Florida history. And for the past two weeks, Scott has been touring the state, campaign-style, highlighting all the  ways he wants to spend more taxpayer money.

 

Scott’s new budget calls for reversing many of the most unpopular cuts he helped secure in the past two years, especially to education and environmental programs. He’s even proposed giving teachers a $2,500 raise.

A year ago, Scott was proposing $2 billion in cuts to social services and health care. This time around, he’s asking the legislature to approve more than a $1 billion increase. Some of that money would go towards helping disabled kids get skilled care at home so they don’t get warehoused in expensive geriatric nursing homes. The US Department of Justice has been threatening to sue the state because of its failure to keep profoundly disabled or medically fragile children out of institutions.

Scott’s new budget also proposes spending $10 million in additional state Medicaid funds to allow 750 developmentally disabled people who’ve been waiting for home care services to finally get them. He’s also asked for $15 million to aid seniors and other disabled adults stay out of nursing homes.

One thing the budget is still missing is any sign that Scott he intends to accept the expansion of Medicaid allowed for under Obamacare, which could potentially provide health care coverage to 1 million Floridians. But Scott’s administration has fought the expansion all the way to the Supreme Court, and his new budget suggests he isn’t changing his mind any time soon.

Still, Scott’s sudden embrace of government spending has left his erstwhile supporters—who already viewed his previous budget as out of control—confused. Jason Hoyt, an Orange County tea party organizer and radio host told the Orlando Sentinel earlier this month, “What in the world happened with Gov. Scott’s budget proposal? It just baffles my mind.”

 

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate