"Republicans on the hook"
Howard Troxler writes that "no matter how conservative they are, the Legislature's Republicans know they're on the hook."
They're the ones who have to give the news to the parents of Florida schoolchildren, to the unemployed, to rape victims and abused children and the disabled losing their services, to fired prison guards."His plan includes:"
• A 10 percent cut in public education spending per pupil in grades K-12. (The schools might be able to get some of that back through other budget tricks.)"Rick Scott's toughest budget sell: the Republican Legislature".
• Cutting 8,600 state jobs, about 7 percent of the total, with the biggest cuts in the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Corrections.
• Requiring all 655,000 state, county and school district employees to contribute 5 percent of their salary for the state pension plan.
• Big changes in the state's expensive Medicaid program, including cutting what the state will pay and turning over control to private "managed care" companies.
• Getting rid of the state agency that manages growth in Florida, the Department of Community Affairs, merging it into the Department of Environmental Protection.
• Reducing unemployment benefits for Floridians and using general tax dollars to pay off Florida's debts in that regard, instead of accepting President Barack Obama's latest offer of another federal handout.
Homeless services? Cut. Separate funds for minority business assistance, school suicide prevention, domestic violence, coastal cleanup? Eliminated. Money for university improvement, buying environmental land? Zero. ...
The bottom line is that our new governor is doing pretty much what he said he was going to do, putting the interests of Florida business above all else.
"Allen West at CPAC says conservatives ready to see in 'a new dawn of America'". See also "West's call for slashing federal spending draws cheers from conservative activists". See also "Allen West and Pat Boone in the house at CPAC" and "Allen West: CPAC star".
A West support is concerned that he is running off a bit too much at the mouth:
Recently, Rep. West has suggested that censorship of the media is a good idea and that the risk of Sharia law in the U.S. should be investigated, referred to fellow Congressman Keith Ellison as the "antithesis of the principles on which this country was established" because he is a Muslim, and stated that perhaps District of Columbia "residents do not pay federal taxes" but would have to delve further into the constitutional issues."Commentary: To be a strong conservative voice, West must pick his battles".
By the way, is West receiving a government pension?
"These steep education cuts cannot stand"
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Safe to say Gov. Rick Scott probably isn't inspiring a ton of confidence among educators. The governor released his budget last week to much angst, anxiety, protest and, well, confusion. Angst, anxiety and opposition are par for the course. Confusion? There shouldn't be any place for that. But there was."
Under the governor's plan, education funding would shrink by $2 billion. School districts in South Florida, and across the state, are bracing themselves for Armageddon."Confusion aside, cuts to education in Gov. Scott's budget run too deep".
There's a ways to go in this process. We suspect legislators will do more to, if not hold education harmless, at least to roll back the damage in rendering more judicious cuts. In a state where reforms finally are gaining traction, these steep education cuts cannot stand.
Where's the anti-choice crowd?
"Florida's prescription drug epidemic, already responsible for nearly seven deaths a day, is taking its toll on the youngest, most vulnerable in our communities: newborns. In 2009, nearly 1,000 babies born in Florida hospitals were treated for drug withdrawal syndrome. They're irritable. They don't eat well. They can spend days, even weeks, detoxing. And the number is skyrocketing." "Newborns treated for drug withdrawals skyrocket in Florida".
Rubio dissing wingnuts
"A year ago, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio received a hero's welcome when he spoke to thousands of Republicans here at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference."
But when the conference reconvened last week, Rubio was nowhere in sight. Though invited to speak again, Rubio turned down the request and returned to Florida for the weekend."Rubio quietly finds his Senate footing". More Rubio here: "In Pinellas speech, Rubio warns of nation's debt woes".
Likewise, days earlier Rubio chose not to attend the first Tea Party Express Town Hall meeting in Washington, despite the pivotal role Tea Party activists in Florida played in his successful 2010 Senate campaign.
Run Jebbie! Run!
"Republicans wish Jeb Bush would run in 2012". If "Jeb!" deigns to run, it will be an earlier than expected opportunity for the traditional media to do its job and finally drive a stake into Jebbie's rotten tumor of a record.
"Positions will be available for admissions, ride maintenance and back office workers. Wallace wouldn't give specifics but said pay and benefits will be competitive with other area theme parks." "Legoland to hire 1,000 people for central FL park".
One suspects pay and benefits will not be competitive with other area theme parks that are unionized.
"It appears that the SunRail commuter train in Central Florida has the approval of Gov. Rick Scott after all. One of Scott's policy advisers, Phillip Miller, told a Senate subcommittee this week that a line item of more than $269 million in the governor's proposed budget was, in fact, for the $1.2 billion project." "SunRail money is there, Scott aide says".
Buchanan pisses in the wind
"While Rep. Vern Buchanan's proposal for a balanced budget amendment may not have much traction in the U.S. House of Representatives, the idea is much more popular in Sarasota, where over 200 people angry over the growing federal deficit came to one of his town hall meetings Saturday."
Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, has been pushing for Congress to balance the federal budget and not rely on borrowing, filing a bill last month that outlined the amendment. But it is the third time Buchanan has filed the bill in the past five years and he has never been able to secure a committee hearing on it, much less a vote."Buchanan's base likes balanced-budget plan".
This year, however, Buchanan has more clout than in the past. He was picked to be on the Ways and Means Committee, offering him a key role in crafting federal policy on major issues like Medicare, Social Security and taxes.
Using that as a springboard, Buchanan has indicated he wants to have a more prominent role in working on federal policies, including his call for a balanced budget.
"Florida Education Funding 101"
Tom Tryon says "welcome to Florida Education Funding 101."
The Required Local Effort is a significant component of the Florida Education Finance Program.Tryon explains here: "Editorial Cartoons Feb 2 2011".
The FEFP is the primary source of funding for public schools, kindergarten through 12th grade.
Florida's constitution has long assigned the responsibility for funding public education to state government -- the Legislature.
In 1998, more than 70 percent of Florida voters supported amending the state constitution to declare public education a "fundamental value of the people."
The amendment further says the state's "paramount duty" is to make "adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders." The state is mandated, according to the amendment, to provide "a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education ..."
(Note: The constitution does not give Florida authority to fulfill its paramount duty to all children living in the state by giving them or their parents vouchers to offset tuition in private schools.)
Unfortunately, the state has not made adequate provision for a high-quality education for all children -- at least not in comparison with funding in other states.
What's worse, the state's direct financial contribution to the FEFP is a paltry amount.
For instance, last year, less than 20 percent of the FEFP came from state sources, such as sales tax revenue. About 5 percent was allocated by the federal government.
The remaining 75 percent of the FEFP came from property taxes levied in each of Florida's 67 county school districts.
How can that be, since the Florida Constitution prohibits the state from levying an ad valorem property tax?
Partisan pension "report" getting play
Not surprisingly, Florida's "Fox News in print", The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board, thinks the sadly partisan "report" by the politically compromised Leroy Collins Institute, is just dandy: "Report sheds light on local pension woes". See "Collins Institute's Partisan Pension Report".
Heaven help us
"Policies supported by Republican House members can be effective in defusing foreign threats, Rep. Connie Mack IV told a conservative audience Saturday." "Open up domestic drilling, Rep. Mack says".
"Dog paddling amid a 12% unemployment rate"
"Spokesman pooh-poohs Obama plan as Scott recommends cutting benefits." "Unemployment proposal a 'Band-aid' to Gov. Scott".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Critics say the reform chatter thinly veils a business-friendly agenda. One fueled by a corrosive meme that casts some of Florida's more than 1 million unemployed as 'slackers and malingerers' or scallywags bent on gaming the system."
Right. As if thousands are living the life of Riley on weekly checks that max out at $275. In any case, anecdotal evidence of abuse isn't sufficient justification for changes that would harm Floridians who are dog paddling amid a 12-percent unemployment rate."Don't blame jobless". See also "Proposals put squeeze on jobless".
"Wildlife officials in northwest Florida are asking the public for help in finding the person who fatally shot a black bear that had been wounded before." "Black bear wounded in Nov. found dead".