Former Florida Governor Bob Martinez says Medicaid expansion would be costly
Former Florida Governor Bob Martinez stayed in line with Republican talking points during a luncheon at the Centre Club in the Westshore District in Tampa today. The former Democratic Tampa mayor turned Republican touched on everything from transit to healthcare in front of about 40 local business leaders.
According to Martinez, he was a Democrat for 27 years â€“ he calls it his minority period â€“ but for the last 30 years he has been a Republican. And like most Republicans he said he doesnâ€™t like the federal healthcare law. Thatâ€™s because Martinez claims it could cost the state more than a million dollars.
â€œThatâ€™s only what they can estimate because you donâ€™t know what employers are going to do. For instance, one of the boards I sit on â€“ we own a lot of pieces of property, a lot of retail. So, weâ€™re going a dog and pony with one of our clients and itâ€™s a food industry â€“ a restaurant industry and the way theyâ€™re going to get around Obamacare is beginning July 1, all their employees will work 29 hours.â€
The federal government has offered states money to expand Medicaid under the law, but so far Florida has refused.
â€œAnd thatâ€™s what the long-term debate is: do we risk taking the money now and three years from now they decide that one way they can reduce the deficit is by not giving the states the ten percent money [for] Medicaid.â€
But even after Governor Rick Scott announced he supported it, the legislature rejected expansion. Still, Martinez worries about the cost of the healthcare safety net program in Florida.
â€œNow, Medicaid is going to be a vacuum cleaner thatâ€™s going to suck up a lot of the new money.â€
There wasnâ€™t much reaction to his statements among Centre Club members. But afterward, Dave Develder said he worries about aspects of the healthcare law including Medicaid expansion.
â€œI mean, since I was 14 I made my own way and Iâ€™m a lot older than that now and I just hate it whenever government comes in and gives us some security because I know thatâ€™s going to take away â€“ if they give me one ounce of security itâ€™s going to cost me ten pounds of freedom and I love my freedom.â€
But Bill Hayward, who during a question and answer session referred to extremist Republicans as â€œright wing nut jobsâ€, lamented that Florida lawmakers should have taken the federal money to provide more healthcare access to low income people.
â€œThatâ€™s the stupidest thing that the legislatureâ€™s ever done. People voted for that. They voted for Obama twice because for the first time in the history of the nation we now have a system starting â€“ itâ€™ll be changed â€“ but itâ€™s starting to give people [Medicaid]. What more compassionate thing can the government do? And theyâ€™re not doing it, weâ€™re paying for it with our taxes and so forth, but at least theyâ€™ve administered [Medicaid] somewhat well.â€
Governor Martinez was also asked about transportation improvements. He praised Hillsborough Area Regional Transit for its efforts to improve the countyâ€™s bus system, but said expanded options like light rail only work in dense regions.
â€œIf in fact you want people to leave their cars at home, you got to make it difficult to park.â€
That, he said, is not happening in Tampa.
â€œYou know, every building that goes up downtown â€“ not in Westshore, but downtown â€“ Westshore as well, but downtown they charge you â€“ is that youâ€™ve got to put up so many parking spaces. But when you do that youâ€™re accommodating for more cars.â€
Martinez also speculated about the rest of this yearâ€™s legislative session in Tallahassee, saying it will be contentious, but there wonâ€™t be arguments over new taxes because the state is projecting a budget surplus.
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