Gov. Rick Scott gave an optimistic State of the State speech before all 160 Florida lawmakers March 3, describing Florida as a place where “everything is possible” and counseling opposing sides that “we agree on more than we disagree on.” The speech marks the beginning of his second term, the opening of the 2015 legislative session, and the 170th anniversary of Florida’s statehood.
Scott outlined his plans for the state in the coming session, saying his ultimate goal is to reduce the burden of government on families.
He hopes to slash taxes, increase spending on public education and vocational training, and freeze graduate-level tuition for state universities (a freeze that he enacted for undergraduate tuition in his first term and now wants to expand).
He asked that legislators join him in order to make good on his campaign promises. “Our budget should reflect the principles we campaigned on, or in other words, we should do exactly what we told voters we would do,” he said, referencing school funding.
A number of controversial topics were not covered in the governor’s remarks, however, including disagreement over educational testing and a deeply flawed prison system.
Missing Comments on Healthcare
A discussion of healthcare, especially as it applies to low-income populations and Florida’s high numbers of uninsured residents, was also absent.
Unless Florida agrees to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the state will lose $1.3 billion in federal funds that would go toward treating poor or uninsured patients.
For uninsured people, problems faced by the population at large — something as simple as back pain, for example, experienced by 80% of people at some point in their lifetimes — can lead to costly emergency intervention or lifelong disability.
Several medical and community organizations work together to provide care to uninsured people, such as the KNIGHTS clinic in Orlando, which is run by second-year medical students and volunteer physicians.
Still, such small-scale efforts can’t compare with federal funding when it comes to providing comprehensive care for uninsured populations.
“We will have a discussion about Medicaid expansion,” Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) said in his own opening day remarks.