Charlie Crist says he could have persuaded Legislature to accept Medicaid expansion

Tampa philanthropist David Straz, a registered Republican who endorsed Rick Scott over Alex Sink in the 2010 Florida gubernatorial campaign, today endorsed Charlie Crist over Scott in this year's election, and he wasn't very charitable to the current governor in doing so.

"If you’re a staunch Republican, and the candidate is Al Capone, are you going to vote for Al Capone?" he said in describing why he doesn't adhere to political labels when he considers who to support in an election.

The two spoke to reporters inside Carol Morsani Hall, one of the theaters that make up the Straz Center, the Tampa performance arts complex named for Straz after his foundation gave a reported $25 million gift to the facility in 2009. Straz said it was the responsibility of everyone to give back to their community, but "unfortunately some outsiders come to Florida and just take," laying out how Scott "took away" high-speed rail and jobs to Tampa by rejecting over $2 billion in federal funds in 2011, and failed to advocate for Medicaid expansion, taking away health care coverage for close to a million Floridians.

Crist said he was grateful for the endorsement, then blasted Scott for failing to "lift a finger" to persuade the GOP-led House and Senate to support the expansion of Medicaid.
"Even [House Speaker] Will Weatherford  said, 'The governor never called me to bring up that bill to expand Medicaid.' That would have been one thing. I would have called the Speaker...used the bully pulpit to talk about it every damned day. Because otherwise sick people get sicker. You know it's $51 billion we're not getting from the federal government... and because of his lack of leadership and effort, we're not getting it back. That's unbelievable to me."

Other conservative governors like Jan Brewer of Arizona, John Kasich of Ohio and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania found themselves in the exact same situation as Scott last year — dealing with a legislature as hostile to Obamacare as they were themselves. But unlike Scott, they weren't willing to allow those federal funds to go to waste. When Crist was asked if he could have persuaded the Republican-dominated House and Senate, he said yes, he would have found a way.

"Most of these people have good hearts," he said of the members of the Legislature. "I hope.... I think that if you're in the governor's chair, and you make an appeal to them and you point out to them how every single day if you don't get this Medicaid expansion done, people are getting sick, and they're getting sicker, and some will die. And just be honest with them that way. It's hard for them to say, 'No, I'm not going to do that. Because you can get to their heart if you work."

In Tallahassee, Governor Scott took a shot at Crist today when he signed a bill that will roll back auto tag fees that Crist and the Republican Legislature approved in 2009, saying, "We're here because in 2009, Charlie Crist raised this tax. We are going to right the wrong of this 2009 tax increase that Charlie Crist enacted," 

Crist dismissed Scott's diss as "politics," adding that he didn't regret raising those fees back then because the economy was struggling. "It was the right thing to do."

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