Florida voters aren’t thrilled about Gov. Rick Scott’s teabagging governing:
Even before he was elected in 2010, Scott spent $5 million of his own money—earned leading a health care company that derives much of its revenue from government payments—to fight Obamacare. Florida was the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case challenging Obamacare, and even after the court upheld the law, Scott refused to take steps to implement it. His fellow tea partiers are urging lawmakers to do the same: At a hearing in December, activist John Knapp told state legislators, “The American Constitution which you just swore an oath to uphold and defend has been contorted, hijacked, and reduced.”
To get Medicaid in Florida, you have to make less than $3,200 a year—and the state seems set to reject Obamacare subsidies that would fix that.
Obamacare is a particular target of tea party wrath in Florida, but it’s hardly the only one in a state where the movement’s ideology has permeated every layer of government. In just one year, Scott and his conservative allies slashed state spending by $4 billion even as they cut corporate taxes. They’ve rejected billions in federal funds in one of the states hardest hit by the recession. They’ve axed everything from health care and public transportation initiatives to mosquito control and water supply programs. “Florida is where the rhetoric becomes the reality. It’s kind of the tea party on steroids,” says state Rep. Mark Pafford, a Democrat. “We’ve lost all navigation in terms of finding that middle ground.”
Similar shifts have occurred in other states where the tea party has amassed political power, including Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. But no state has gone as far as Florida, where small-government advocates have seized the economic crisis and fiscal downturn to reshape the state, often sacrificing benefits for residents to make a broader political point.
Now, the Sunshine State may be a harbinger of another realignment: Support for Scott and the GOP is plummeting as Floridians see anti-government governance at work. But it may be too late for buyer’s remorse. After two years at the helm, the tea party’s legacy is likely to far outlast the movement.
(h/t/ William White.)