TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott picked a good time to be far from the Capitol Tuesday as House members slashed his tax cuts and angry senators accused his top Medicaid expert of playing politics with health care.
On the second day of a three-week special legislative session, Scott was at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort near Orlando, mingling with Republican presidential hopefuls at an economic summit planned months ago by his Let’s Get to Work political committee. Back in Tallahassee, his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature were far less cordial.
A House committee approved a fraction of the $700 million in tax cuts Scott sought, and senators berated the governor’s point man on Medicaid, Justin Senior, for more than an hour. Months of simmering frustration by Republican senators erupted. They accused Senior, deputy secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, of manufacturing phony arguments to side with the House in an effort to mobilize opposition to a Senate plan to expand health coverage to 800,000 Floridians.
“It seems to me you just brought nothing but confusion,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, told Senior, accusing him of being “derelict in his duty” and of misrepresenting the economic impact of the Senate plan in House testimony Monday. The young bureaucrat maintained his poise and said “I apologize” five times for showing up late to a five-hour hearing and for not being more responsive to senators’ requests for information.
“We do our best not to engage in politics,” Senior said.