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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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The Blog for Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Scott's "irresponsible", "19th-century" budget is DOA

    "An overflowing crowd of Tea Party activists from across the state, many wearing 'Don't Tread on Me' t-shirts and waving American flags, stuffed a Baptist church in this conservative county on Monday, to hear Gov. Rick Scott give the details of his austere budget plan."
    Tea Party entertainer Lloyd Marcus of Volusia County extended his act, singing popular songs, such as "My Girl," with the lyrics changed to praise Tea Party favorites such as Sarah Palin and bash President Barack Obama.

    The crowd also heard from Dr. Jack Cassell, the Mount Dora urologist made famous last year when he posted a sign on his office door last year declaring "If you voted for Obama…seek urologic care elsewhere." Arriving in medical scrubs, Cassell drew enthusiastic applause when he declared that last year's federal health-care reform bill has "got to go in the garbage."

    Outside, Anna Jacobson of Sarasota set up a table to sell a variety of t-shirts, hats and pins with conservative messages – including one declaring "Original right-wing extremist." She wore a pink pin that read: "Hot chicks vote Republican."
    "Tea Party activists cheer budget cuts".

    "At a highly partisan tea-party event on Monday, Gov. Rick Scott unveiled his first budget proposal, one that makes sweeping changes to state government by slashing billions in taxes and spending." "Gov. Scott proposes spending cuts, lower taxes". See also "Scott unveils budget plan at tea party rally" and "Read the text of Gov. Scott's speech to the Tea Party".

    "The plan was presented in a 167-page, broad-brush document that leaves most of the details for lawmakers to flesh out during the legislative session that starts March 8."
    But it calls for reducing overall spending by $4.6 billion compared to the current fiscal year and reducing the state workforce by 8,681 employees, or nearly 7 percent. Scott said about 2,000 of those positions were unfilled.

    Pre-K through university budgets — which Scott had pledged to protect during his campaign — would face $3.3 billion in cuts, dropping from $22.4 billion this year to $19.1 billion. For public schools, per-pupil spending would fall by about $700, a cut that would be partially offset by Scott's push to require all teachers to begin contributing 5 percent of their earnings to their pensions. Those dollars are currently paid for by the local districts and state. ...

    Scott also would all-but-eliminate the state's Department of Community Affairs, the growth-management agency he's called a "job-killer," slashing its budget from $778 million to $110 million. Total employees would drop from 358 to 40. ...

    Other agencies with big cuts include Transportation ($441.5 million), the Agency for Persons with Disabilities ($173.9 million); and the Department of Children & Family Services ($178.5 million).

    The DCF savings would come partially from privatizing the state's three remaining publicly operated mental-health facilities in Chattahoochee, Macclenny and Gainesville. Florida has already privatized five other mental health facilities.

    But despite Scott's promise to save $4 billion over two years by creating a "patient-directed" Medicaid system — mostly likely some manner of health maintenance organization — his recommended appropriation for the agency that oversees Medicaid would rise by $1.2 billion next year, to $22 billion.

    Medicaid itself would grow by $2 billion in the governor's budget to account for enrollment growth, although the plan would cut the rates the program pays to hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and managed-care companies by 5 percent. Next year, the governor hopes the federal government and state lawmakers will agree to largely privatize the program.

    Another agency Scott isn't cutting is his own office; its budget would nearly double to $638 million as Scott attempts to streamline economic development efforts and bring them his control.
    "Florida Gov. Rick Scott proposes $4.6 billion in budget cuts".

    "Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich called Scott's proposal 'retreaded voodoo economics' with cuts to the state's most vulnerable citizens."
    "It will drill more holes in our already badly damaged public education. It will further eliminate the life rafts hundred of thousands of Floridians have had to turn to for basic survival because their jobs, their benefits and their homes have disappeared," Rich, D-Weston, said in a statement.
    "Businesses win; schools, state workers lose under Scott's first budget plan". See also "Scott's $65.9B 'jobs budget' cuts corporate income tax", "Leaders Begin Scrutinizing Scott's Proposed Budget", "Local leaders react to budget proposal" ("Volusia County public schools would face a 'significant' loss of funds under the governor's proposed budget that would cut $3.3 billion from education statewide"), "Rick Scott, the tea party and the coming battle over Florida’s budget", "Governor proposes largest spending cut in state history", "School districts bracing for less money locally", "Scott Axes $5 Billion From State Budget", "End of Stimulus Hits Public Schools in Scott Plan", "State parks in peril", "Scott proposes $3.3 bill cut to education" and "Scott: $3.3 billion in education cuts are from federal funds" ("Florida currently is 34th among the states in per pupil operating expenditures, more than $1,116 below the national average, according to the Florida School Boards Association.")

    "If Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget were to stand, Florida schools would suffer widespread layoffs and other devastating cutbacks, educators warned." "Educators: Scott plan would spark 'massive layoffs'".

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Scott's $66 billion budget is so irresponsible that the Legislature is duty bound to turn it inside out." "Forget smooth sailing".

    The Tampa Tribune editors point out that Scott
    would virtually eliminate the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees growth and whose decisions are aimed at protecting taxpayers from having to pay for the roads, schools and other costs generated by ill-planned developments.

    Scott would pare $23 million and 97 workers from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, whose law-enforcement staff is notoriously shorthanded and underpaid.

    He would cut more than 1,800 jobs and $178 million in the Department of Children and Family Services, though the once-troubled agency has in recent years made remarkable progress in protecting abused and neglected children.

    We wonder what the impact will be of cutting Veterans Affairs from $81 million to $45 million and eliminating 506 jobs when veterans complain about current services.
    "Scott keeps his promise".

    Mike Thomas writes that "Scott chopped us all the way back to 19th-century Florida, when the job of state government was to clear dead bodies from the street, hang horse thieves and drain the Everglades. He chopped so much that nobody could make sense out of it, creating complete budgetary confusion in the media and the Legislature. But I guess that's OK because, like Harry, this budget is a fantasy."
    [When] he gets into the things that will impact people directly, things that might not be relevant to a retired CEO living on the beach of Naples.

    Foremost among them is his proposed $3 billion education cut.

    Given that personnel costs take up about 80 percent of a school district's operating budget, this means either large across-the-board pay cuts for all teachers or mass layoffs. The latter option would hit the newer teachers hardest. These are the next generation of teachers expected to educate our kids.

    Reading specialists would go. Kids would be crammed into elective classes like sardines. A lot of popular programs would be whacked. A lot of moms and dads would be very upset.

    This all would hit as academic requirements and standardized tests are made tougher. It's a good bet that Florida's 12-year string of student learning gains would end and schools would start seriously backsliding.

    Two words when that happens: Train wreck. ...

    This budget is going nowhere.
    "Scott budget is so skeletal that GOP leaders will bury it".

    "To Scott, it's all about national politics"

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "With the release of his first budget, Gov. Scott looked and sounded more like a presidential candidate than someone concerned about Florida's future."

    He announced the budget not on the usual nonpartisan stage in Tallahassee but to a tea party audience in Lake County, northwest of Orlando, where he polled 16 points better than Alex Sink. Warm-up speakers blasted President Obama and praised U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, who declared the health law unconstitutional. Defending his budget cuts, Gov. Scott told the crowd, "We're doing this for the sake of our children and grandchildren."

    That comment might be credible in Washington or certain states. Florida, though, is not $14 trillion in debt, like the federal government. It is not facing a $22 billion deficit like Texas, the state Gov. Scott seems bent on emulating. But to Gov. Scott, it's all about national politics.
    "It's Florida, not Washington: Scott's budgetary focus should be this state.".

    Voucher madness

    "A proposal touted by Gov. Rick Scott to radically expand school vouchers is unlikely to gain any traction in the state Legislature anytime soon, key lawmakers say." "Legislators unlikely to act on Scott's plan to expand vouchers".

    "Insurers fear they will lose money"!!!

    "As arguments about the constitutionality of healthcare reform reverberate through courtrooms in Florida and across the nation, two provisions that have already kicked in are sparking opposite reactions from insurers."

    The requirement that children under 19 be granted insurance regardless of preexisting conditions has caused Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and many other insurers to stop offering child-only coverage.

    Insurers fear they will lose money because parents might sign up for coverage only when their children become sick. That is scheduled to change in 2014, when the law requires that virtually everyone have health insurance — a provision that a federal judge in Pensacola declared unconstitutional on Jan. 31.

    But the provision requiring many employers to insure adult children up to age 26 through their parents’ plans has glided into practice with virtually no opposition because healthcare consultants, insurance companies and major employers believe cost increases will be minimal and benefits widespread.
    "Nuances emerge as health reform rolls out".

    Libertarian Party of Florida

    "For decades, the Libertarian Party of Florida has sat on the political sidelines watching the Republicans and Democrats run up the score. So says Libertarian AM talk show host Adrian Wyllie, who last week announced his bid to become the party’s next chairman." "Libertarian Party chair hopeful wants to ‘lead the party out of obscurity’".

    West formally teabags

    "West to join Tea Party caucus".

    Special Elections

    "When Frederica Wilson won Kendrick Meek's former congressional seat last November, she set in motion a special election for two legislative seats. And that election is set for Tuesday in South Florida." "Two South Florida Legislative Seats Up in Special Elections".

    Wham, bam ... never mind

    "A scheduled vote on a bill that would change the rates of unemployment compensation taxes and the way jobless claims are paid out was postponed in a state Senate committee meeting Monday. Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, who filed Senate Bill 728 and who chairs the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, said she had wanted to rush through a committee vote but put it off to allow more time for discussion, debate and to make any changes." "Reform of Jobless Benefits Tax Slows Down in Senate".

    Ricky's "first performance review is bad"

    Stephen Goldstein: "I am Rick Scott's boss — and so are you. He's the governor of Florida, not the king of Scott-land! Voters merely hired him for four years, and there's no guarantee we'll renew his contract."

    Unfortunately, his first performance review is bad: The governor doesn't understand where he sits on the state organization chart or the seriousness of his having sworn a solemn oath to uphold the state Constitution.

    In office barely more than a month, he is already taking part in a blatantly partisan effort to trash the Constitution and overturn a legitimate vote. Floridians have been election-queasy since the U.S. Supreme Court intervened in our electoral process and selected George W. Bush president. We don't look kindly upon anything that smacks of overturning the popular will. ...

    In one of his first official missteps after taking office, Scott withdrew Florida's request for a required review of our new redistricting standards by the U.S. Department of Justice that was filed in December. In a case of the fox guarding the hen house, he appointed as secretary of state (and head of elections) a man who had campaigned against the redistricting amendments.

    Scott's obstructionism makes him a party to a sorry series of plots by elected officials afraid they will no longer be able to choose their voters.
    "Scott's bad act: Governor can't ignore voters' will".

    Here come union bashin'

    "A leading Senate Republican has filed a bill that could strip unions of some of their political strength, barring payroll deduction for union dues and prohibiting dues from being used for political activity without written consent."

    The unions remain one of the last bastions of Democratic power in the state of Florida, pouring money into Democratic candidates’ campaign coffers. They strongly supported Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, who lost to Gov. Rick Scott in a razor-thin election in which other Republican candidates rolled easily to victory.
    "Top state lawmaker wants to limit use of union dues for politics".

    GOPers "on the taxpayers' dime"

    "They rented an exclusive waterfront mansion, wined and dined at five-star restaurants and hired family members and friends, all on the taxpayers' dime. Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele's 2012 convention team based in the Tampa Bay area raked up nearly $1 million in charges – using a line of credit backed by federal funding – before they were fired by the newly elected party chairman last month." "RNC's former Tampa convention team spent $1 million".

    Scott does bidness' bidding, fires elderly advocate

    "For years, [Brian Lee] the 39-year-old advocate who led the program -- created during the 1960s Great Society legislation to safeguard elderly people -- has had a tense relationship with leaders of the powerful nursing home and retirement home industries, who said he often overstepped his authority." "State’s top elderly advocate removed from job".

    Entrepreneurs in action

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "If the allegations of a whistle-blower lawsuit prove true, a bank trusted with doing international trades on behalf of Florida's public pension fund fraudulently skimmed money when it exchanged currency." "Pension funds need closer eye".

    Sales-tax cheats

    "Comparing Florida's tax collection apparatus to an 'honor system,' a Miami-Dade grand jury has urged Tallahassee to ease budget woes by going after convenience stores, car dealers and other small businesses holding back sales tax dollars." "Florida should pursue sales-tax cheats, grand jury says".

    Drill Baby! Drill!

    The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "If you've filled up at the pump lately, you know that gasoline is more than $3 per gallon in most areas of Florida. High-priced gas could mean big problems for the state. Fewer people from around the nation and world will jet to Daytona Beach, Orlando and Miami to visit and spend money. Fewer Florida families will visit beaches and attractions in other parts of the Sunshine State." "Drilling delays threaten development of energy".

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