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Sunday, Apr 20, 2014
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Jackson: Wrong side for Fasano the Invincible?

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Last week, two of Florida’s top lawmakers shook hands on a plan to expand government-subsidized medical insurance coverage, and guess who wasn’t amused? A colleague who’s been mentor to both, and who was in the Legislature back when one of them was worried about earning his driver’s license.

The latter part of that equation probably accounts for much of the mentor’s displeasure. I mean, even by pre-term-limitation standards, Mike Fasano has been spending springtime in Tallahassee a long, long time.

Fasano, an early activist in Pasco County’s Republican revolution, won his first election — to the state House of Representatives — in 1994. Speaker Will Weatherford and presumed future Speaker Richard Corcoran, the pivotal partners in the House’s alternative to federally subsidized Medicaid expansion, were 15 and 29, respectively.

Fasano, Mr. Invincible, has been unassailable at the ballot box ever since, a historic, eye-popping stretch that covers eight campaigns and a journey from the House to the Senate and, now, back to the House.

It is safe to say there has not been in all that time a member of the Pasco legislative delegation who did not, or does not, owe some degree of debt to Fasano’s example, expertise and counsel. When it comes to understanding how to get and stay elected, Fasano is the gold standard.

That said (and we want to say the following as gently as we can), we wonder from time to time whether, in his unyielding pursuit of constituent service — which in Mike’s World amounts to virtually everyone not on the board of a public utility — Fasano loses sight of larger public policy concerns.

Fasano’s recent discontent with Weatherford and Corcoran has more layers than a French pastry, but at its base is the whippersnappers’ determination not to accept about 50 billion carrots dangling from Washington’s Obamacare stick.

Turning down federal money always has been politically risky, never more so than today. It’s not hard to figure out why.

Many of your neighbors — dare we say “47 percent”? — regard Washington as a magical ATM spitting out endless oodles of crisp C-notes, no questions asked. Small wonder, then, they act like bored siblings in the back seat during a long car trip bickering over something one got the other didn’t.

Oh, and they never, ever forget.

“California got our high-speed rail money, and we’re still stuck in traffic on Interstate 4. Waaaaah!”

So we need to pay off $17 trillion just to get back to being flat broke. How serious can America’s debt be when we’re still able to upgrade our smartphones, subscribe to Netflix, keep the garage fridge stocked with designer beer and the guy across the street sends his kids to some swanky private school?

The seriousness of the national debt and Washington’s feckless attempts to reduce it are, happily, not lost on Weatherford and Corcoran. Accordingly, their proposal, while not nearly so lavish and open-ended as the Obamacare borrowed-money bomb, benefits by not hastening the day the United States becomes Cyprus-Between-Two-Oceans.

The fact the plan — Florida Health Choices, originated during now-Sen. Marco Rubio’s speakership — would use only state resources, keep Florida lawmakers in control and encourage market forces is that savory stuff you ladle onto chicken-fried steak. Gravy.

“We think this is an opportunity to lead the health care debate not just in Florida,” Weatherford says, “but to take a new idea for people who don’t have care and do it in a more responsible way.”

But if the money isn’t going to come from China via the Potomac, it has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere looks suspiciously like a portion of the raises more or less promised state workers in the session’s earliest days. Again, Fasano is put off.

“Shame on (Republican leaders),” he said, “for taking the money out of the pockets of state workers to pay for another impractical idea.”

Will that populist dog hunt? Let’s ask private-sector workers who, four years into “the recovery,” still cling to jobs that pay less than they did before the bubble burst, who must negotiate furlough days, and who worry about relatives and friends so long unemployed they may join the tens of millions who’ve dropped out of the work force.

Hey, guys, state workers may not be getting quite as fat a raise as they were counting on so about 115,000 poor and disabled Floridians can get medical coverage and the Legislature can still balance its budget. You got a problem with that?

Didn’t think so.


tjackson@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1851

https://www.facebook.com/TomJacksonTribune

Twitter: @tjacksonTBO

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