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Fortune Magazine: Scott wanted a deal with Obama administration over high speed rail money

Gov. Rick Scott may have accepted $2 billion for high speed rail had the Obama administration been more willing to negotiate support for dredging in state ports, according to a new profile of Scott online today.

Fortune Magazine writer Tory Newmyer followed Scott around the Capitol a few weeks ago for the story, "The Education of Florida governor Rick Scott." It's a lengthy, detailed piece about Scott's political rise and the adjustments he made in his first (and very unpopular) year, things many Tallahassee watchers already know.

Aside from the busted deal for high speed rail, the piece briefly notes Scott asked Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson to rank the state's schools in order from best to worst (how?).

A couple excerpts from the story are below:

Though he was skeptical of the project's merits, Scott had been trying to cut a deal with the Obama administration to improve the state's position. He believed the White House badly wanted him to accept the funding to build what they hoped would become a model for a nation-spanning system of high-speed rail. Scott, however, was keener to secure federal help dredging the Jacksonville and Miami ports, to make them accessible to the supertankers that will be ferrying cargo through an enlarged Panama Canal as soon as 2014. Republican state senator Paula Dockery, an early Scott backer and adviser on transportation issues, says Scott at one point told her he was inclined to accept the rail project but was using it as a bargaining chip with Washington. Scott doesn't dispute her account. He says he told Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, "You want this project done. I can tell you what I'm interested in. If you want to make it interesting to me, make it interesting to me." Scott says that since LaHood refused to negotiate, his original misgivings carried the day.

Longtime Scott-watchers call that a vintage performance: Walk into every negotiation with a line the other side needs to cross, and if they won't budge, shut your briefcase and walk out. A spokeswoman for LaHood declined to comment. 

* * *

I'm sitting in the governor's Tallahassee office as Scott quizzes his education chief on a plan to rank the state's 3,800 schools, first to last. The concept of imposing new metrics is pure Scott and dates, he is explaining, to his Columbia/HCA days, when he would rank, say, emergency rooms, to distill what separated the best from the worst. "Really, if you think about some of this stuff, it's pretty simplistic," he says. It's also exactly the kind of thing that rankles state employees and constituents ("shareholders," in Scott parlance).