Gov. Rick Scott wrapped up a wide-ranging press conference that underscored the fact that the new gov is a newsmaker.
First, Scott tried to get ahead of the news about the surprise resignation of his secretary for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Carl Littlefield, who had been faulted for his oversight of a group home where lewd conduct and lax supervision were the grist of headlines.
So Scott ordered up an investigation of APD's spending, saying the agency has repeatedly overspent its budget. Then, when the subject of a prescription-drug database came up, Scott said he scotched the idea because it invades privacy and has led to "wasted money." When asked about nixing a new plan to save high-speed rail, Scott let it be known that he probably won't change his mind.
First, the APD budget issue:
“For years the agency has run large deficits by spending significantly more tax dollars than were budgeted," Scott said. "They will live within their approved budget. I can’t imagine an agency not living within its budget."
But APD often runs deficits because its a Medicaid program, which has to accept new enrollees who can drive up costs. Anything new? Scott wouldn't say.
"We have budgets. We’re going to have agencies live within their budgets. We’re going to make changes.”
How much money? Scott wouldn't say. "We don’t know the exact dollar amount, but we’re told it’s very significant.. I don’t want to speculate"
What about Littlefield? Why did you hire him in the first place?
"When I asked Secretary Littlefield to take the position, I felt comfortable he would do a good job. He has decided to resign," Scott said. Did you talk with him before he resigned? Scott paused, then said no.
As for the prescription drug database, Scott he prefers current law-enforcement efforts to crack down on pill mills. He doesn't like the idea of the government tracking prescrition purchases.
"I’m trying to figure out in that group where the money is. It has come to my attention that thousands of dollars have been spent on lawyers, travel, meals and board members," Scott said. "I don’t support the database. I believe it’s an invasion of privacy.... it appears that the money’s been wasted."
No state money is involved in establishing the database, but opponents fear it will only be a matter of time before the state starts funding it.
Scott also said he's not too interested in a new plan to salvage high-speed rail. Backers say the businessman-governor should at least hear them out. Scott said there's not much more to hear, however.
"Look at ridership studies. If you look at ridership studies, there’s no way in the world that we’re not going to have operating losses. Look at Tri-Rail…. taxpayers help subsidize it to the tune of $35 million a year.... If you look at the risk of cost of overruns, if you look at ridership studies, if you look at the fact that if we make a mistake -- and we’re wrong we have to give back $2.4 billion to the federal government – it’s not worth the risk.”