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Previewing CPAC speech, Weatherford tells a tale of two states

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, like Alabama, 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.