Joe Henderson Columns
Henderson: Who is this man in the governor's mansion?
I will assume Gov. Rick Scott is savvy enough to understand just what he unleashed this week by announcing his support to expand Medicaid coverage by a whole lot in our fair state. It's the political equivalent of a Category 5 storm. Let's whimsically name it, "Hurricane What In The World Is This Guy Up To?" As we know, Scott plans to ask the Legislature to approve the federal government's plan to provide Medicaid benefits to 900,000 more Floridians, but only for three years. Legislative action would be required to keep it going after that because the cost could shift back to the state. Scott called it a "compassionate, common sense step forward." That's not how a lot of his fellow Republicans saw it.Over the last couple of days, I heard people say they were "disappointed" and "surprised" and, oh, "extremely disappointed." These were also people who theoretically like the governor. That group includes Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam — which is why I used the word "theoretically." Putnam can't order farm fresh Florida eggs for breakfast these days without someone asking if he plans to challenge Scott in the 2014 Republican primary. I asked him that, too. He said he was only thinking about his current job. That's not the question I asked, I told him. "That's the answer you're getting," he said, pleasantly. While insisting, "I like the governor and we work well together," Putnam admitted Scott's abrupt about-face this week "was a surprise." He also says Scott's figure of 900,000 new users is low, citing a report from the Urban Institute that says the number is more like 1.295 million. "You cannot sell this program as a pilot for three years, enroll almost 1.3 million new participants and then back away when the bill comes due," he said. Health care isn't the only place Florida's governor has distanced himself from positions taken by, well, Florida's governor. He has proposed big increases to the state budget, especially in education. He has said the state needs to back off voter policies he helped put in place that caused so much controversy last November. Imagine how that plays with people like Karen Jaroch. She loves the tea party and its vision of a government that butts out of the everyday life of its citizens. She also is a leader in the Tampa 912 Project, a group that counts among its nine principles, "The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me." "I'm disappointed. That's the best way to describe it," Jaroch said. "This is contrary to what he ran on in 2010. I think he is getting some bad advice from people he has surrounded himself with." An abysmally low approval rating like Scott's has been known to be the bugle call for politics over principle. I'm just saying … "People in power need to stop looking at polls and remember what got them elected in the first place," Jaroch said. Scott was sent to Tallahassee to create jobs and cut … um, slash … um, eviscerate … the budget. He did the latter at first, but now his supporters see a governor showing an increasing appetite for spending and spending. "I'm extremely disappointed in the Medicaid expansion because that's a broken system," said Tampa tea party member Sharon Calvert. "Why would we want to put more people into a system that doesn't work? I don't know what kind of advice he is getting, but one thing that's quite obvious is that we have an election in 2014." It's a fascinating turn of events for a governor who is looking more liberal by the day. One thing can't be denied, though. If it comes down to attack ads, the old Rick Scott would have a field day with the new Rick Scott, but how would Democrats approach that? I mean, these days he is doing what they want him to do. Can they rip him for that? There is no other way to put this: The world has gone mad, and Rick Scott has some explaining to do.