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Democrats respond to Scott, push Medicaid expansion

Immediately after Gov. Rick Scott concluded his "State of the State" speech, Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith and House Minority Leader Perry Thurston took to the airwaves to respond.

During brief remarks on the Florida Channel, both men outlined their session priorities in similar fashion: education, healthcare and election reform. Smith pointed out areas where he agrees and disagrees with Scott, and on Medicaid expansion it appears to be a bit of both.

Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, agrees with the governor that the state should accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid. But Smith doesn't think Scott is taking the right approach by not making this issue one of his top priorities this legislative session.

 "He needs to walk the halls, remind members he is the governor, the head of the party and the top of their ticket," Smith said.

Thurston said Medicaid was not only a health care issue, but an economic one.

"Expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act is not just an achievable approach to ending Florida’s problem of a vast uninsured populace; It’s also a means of accelerating Florida’s economic recovery to restore our shared prosperity," Thurston said.

At the top of Scott's priorities list: across-the-board raises for teachers and a cut in manufacturing taxes. Smith said all state workers deserved pay raises, not just educators. And he encouraged Scott to tie further business tax cuts to specific goals, such as job creation or increased productivity.

Thurston said he was hoping to work with Republicans on election reform, but the legislation now being moved through the House needed improvements.

"While there will be bipartisan progress on this important issue, there’s much more work to be done," said Thurston, also a Democrat from Fort Lauderdale. "Florida needs more voting days, more polling locations, and for those voting sites to be properly staffed and properly equipped."