House Speaker Will
Weatherford tried to draw a clear line between Florida
and liberal states like California and Illinois on Tuesday, saying Florida’s conservative governance strategy
will win out in the “political science experiment” currently taking place
between red and blue states.
Speaking before the Florida chapter of the National
Federation of Independent Businesses, Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, hinted at
some of what he’ll say during a high-profile weekend speech before the
conservative gathering CPAC.
Weatherford talked about his positions on Medicaid and
pensions, framing his arguments within a broader theme more suitable for a
national audience: Tax-and-spend liberal states are struggling while freedom-promoting,
conservative states that are prospering.
“There are two distinct directions that states are going,”
Weatherford said. “There’s the collectivism, groupthink-type state—California, Illinois, New York and others
where [instead of] solving their problems they just raise more taxes.”
He went on to say, “There are other states, like Florida, like Texas,
that are actually doing the right things. That are limiting the regulatory
burden, limiting the tax burden on citizens.”
Weatherford painted liberal states like California
and Illinois as economically-troubled places
where residents are fleeing in droves, coming to Florida and other low-tax havens.
Weatherford’s portrayal of liberal-versus-conservative track
records isn’t completely accurate. For example, the job growth rate in California and New York
are double the below-average growth that Florida
has achieved in the last year, and Illinois is
creating jobs at the same rate as Florida.
Weatherford said his decision to not expand Medicaid is part
of a push to help make Florida “a pocket of
freedom” in the U.S.
and also said Medicaid expansion was “a threat” to freedom.
Weatherford said other states that capitulate to federal
Medicaid expansion will end up facing budget troubles and “will be at a
disadvantage to a state like Florida
10 years from now.
NFIB members applauded Weatherford when he said he was “not
buying” the federal government’s Medicaid expansion plan. NFIB is one of the
few business groups to take a solid and consistent position against Medicaid
expansion. Groups like the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries of Florida
have signaled that they could support Medicaid expansion, which Gov. Rick Scott favors.
The House Speaker didn’t completely shut off the door to
accepting billions of federal dollars to help cover 1 million uninsured
Floridians. He said he prefers a “private sector solution.”
Weatherford also talked about pensions, which he said need
to be addressed before the long-term costs weigh down taxpayers.
Again, he pointed to states like Illinois, which is dealing with a massive
budget problem due to pension obligations.