A Tale of Two Cities: Tallahassee, Medicaid and the Worst of Times

A Tale of Two Cities: Tallahassee, Medicaid and the Worst of Times

Among political reporters, there’s a way to talk about politicians who make mistakes, then compound them by their explanations of their behavior, then do it again.

Such political actors are called “the gifts that keep on giving.”

The reporters don’t have to dig for new information, or meet with confidential informants to get the dirt, or press an ear against the door of a closed meeting.

They simply have to jot down or get on tape what the politician says, wrap it in a little background prose, and Voila! A story suitable for reading, liking and tweeting.

I’m feeling a little like those reporters with regard to the ongoing budget impasse in Tallahassee. There’s something new every day to write about, and the subject matter, while not about scandal, certainly has a way of holding one’s attention.

Billions of dollars have a way of doing that.

But in the last few days, as the session looks more and more like an episode in a soap opera (“Next time, on As the Budget Churns, . . . “), I’ve been struck by the contrast between events in this capital city and in one farther north. And I’m amazed to find that it would appear the story from Washington, D.C., where “dysfunctional” has been used so often as an adjective that it’s lost all of its charm, actually is more like a “best of times” than in our own state capital.

First, to pick up the story from Tallahassee:

Monday evening, the Senate Appropriations chair, Tom Lee, had a sit-down meeting with Governor Rick Scott. Reportedly, this is the first such meeting on the subject that is derailing any prospect of a budget being passed on time: Medicaid expansion (in some form) and the budget hole created by the expected loss of the Low Income Pool to support hospitals and medical schools in their efforts to care for the uninsured.

Senator Lee reported that the governor is “trying to get his head around some compromises that could bring this all in for a landing.” But at least at this juncture (and at least from what the senator was willing to share), it’s not clear which runway the budget will land on, or when.

Even if the governor and the Senate come to an understanding, the House Republican leadership apparently is urging its members “to trust us” as they refuse to consider any solution to the budget impasse that includes a proposal to address the problem of the uninsured (except, perhaps, the proposal that has the federal government giving us billions of dollars to do it our way, without expanding coverage for the uninsured . . . something I’m pretty certain is a non-starter with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).

Pause to recall that this is Florida . . . the state where Republicans hold every statewide elected office except one (one U.S. senator, Bill Nelson) and solid, solid majorities in both houses. Yet we have an apparent impasse, an absolute, unresolvable conflict over how the budget for the state should be crafted for the next fiscal year.

How does one-party control produce total stalemate?

Looks like the city of the “worst of times.”

Next:  A Tale of Two Cities: Washington, Medicare, and the Best of Times?