Rick Scott: Expanding Medicaid Is "Not Going to Be Good for Anybody"

Gov. Rick Scott was a guest on CNBC's Squawk Box program this morning, answering questions about everything from Mitt Romney to Florida's unemployment rate. The most interesting discussion, however, occurred when he was asked by the hosts about his announcement that Florida was not going to comply with the health-care law.

He said the state (with its 0-percent income tax) simply did not have enough money to pay for it: "Right now you have a choice in Florida government: It's Medicaid, it's education, or it's prisons." He also said, when it comes to Medicaid, "We're not going to make more people dependent on this... The expansion's not going to be good for anybody."

The CNBC hosts did not ask him about the 951,622 uninsured Floridians who would be covered under an expansion.

Here's the rest of the health-care response:

Here's the deal. What that ruling showed us is we have two opportunities. One, we don't have to do the expansion. I mean, the expansion's not going to be good for anybody. It's gonna cost $1.9 billion a year growing. It'll make Florida way more dependent, we'll have to have to raise our taxes, and Medicaid program is a --

Right now you have a choice in Florida government: It's Medicaid, it's education, or it's prisons. And Medicaid has been growing at three and a half times our general revenues. So that has made it very difficult to fund our education. So this will make it, I don't know how you fund K-through-12 education or our universities if this grows like this. No one wants to pay more taxes. So, we're not going to that, because it, one, it's not a program that works -- we're not going to make more people dependent on this. Second, these health care exchanges, they don't reduce price, they increase the price.
On other fronts, Scott flatly denied that the Romney campaign asked him to stop bragging about falling Florida unemployment, as reported by Bloomberg earlier this month.

"They never said that," Scott said. "I've seen the article; I talked to the reporter who wrote the first article. But we are doing really well."

As reasons, he cited the state's lowering taxes, reducing regulation, streamlining the permitting process, and "you treat businesses like you like them to come to Florida."

When asked about his low approval numbers and whether he could be reelected today, he said "I don't even think about that. I'm doing what I ran on."

He pointed out that the number of unemployed Floridians has dropped from 568,000 to 340,000. He did not point out that the state is still losing jobs and that the lower unemployment rate is due largely to residents giving up looking for work -- a common GOP refrain when Obama brags about jobs numbers.

"When you raise your kids to be independent, you want people to have an opportunity. Now, it's gotta be a fair and level playing field," Scott said. "I lived in public housing. I started school living in public housing. So in America, you have the opportunity. It's harder now -- way more regulation, permitting, the taxes, way different than years ago."

He didn't mention that it's also "harder now" because of how the cost of living has increased 67 percent since 1990 while wages have risen only 21 percent, how productivity has risen without any comparative increase in income for the low or middle classes, or how the share of American after-tax income has shifted drastically toward top earners since the late '70s.

He can say he wants a level playing field, but at the end of the day, he seems to be more inclined to reinforce the message that he cited this morning as the best thing he's done since becoming governor: Getting the message out that "Florida government is there to help businesses succeed."

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Rich Abdill