Florida Governor Rick Scott Preaches Austerity, Spends Big On Frivolous Lawsuits

Florida Governor Rick Scott (R)

Florida Governor Rick Scott has spoken a lot about cutting government spending, lowering taxes for corporations, and removing social safety nets that millions of people rely on. But while he is busy eliminating more than $3 billion from public classrooms, his administration is simultaneously racking up hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal expenses to defend several of its own unconstitutional laws and fight frivolous battles in federal court over Obamacare.

To date, Rick Scott has authorized more than $888,000 for legal costs. Nearly $70,000 of that money was spent over the last two years fighting Obamacare in court, and that expense only ended thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling last month. Other suits have been filed in response to the state’s new welfare drug testing law, plans to privatize prisons through the budgeting process, and changes in the way the state manages its retirement plan. In all three cases the courts have sided against the Scott administration.

State governments finding themselves in court is nothing new, not even in Florida. But as the Orlando Sentinel explains, Scott’s administration is so far proving to be particularly litigious:

Legal challenges to new laws aren’t unusual in Florida. Gov. Jeb Bush tangled with the Florida Education Association over his school-voucher program; Gov. Charlie Crist was sued by the Legislature — successfully — over a gambling compact he negotiated with the Seminole Tribe. And in 2010, several suits overturned proposed constitutional amendments that Republican lawmakers had wanted on the ballot.

But observers in Tallahassee said the suits filed against Scott-approved measures far exceed other administrations’ legal woes. Friday, a new case was added to the list, with U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference announcing they would file a federal suit opposing some of the changes under the state’s new election law.

The Sentinel also points out that the $888,000 figure was calculated before several new suits were filed, including a case involving the state’s controversial voter purge program. And even though the Attorney General’s office has been able to handle most of the legal challenges, in several instances the state has had to contract out to expensive law firms in DC and Atlanta, costing taxpayers even more.