Rick Scott's "con for the ages"
Scott Maxwell: "Everyone knows that if you win the Super Bowl, you go to Disney World. But if you're a wildly unpopular governor, looking for a pocket of sycophants, where do you go? The Villages!"
Yes, with new poll numbers showing that Rick Scott is one of the least popular governors in the United States, ol' Rick headed back to his political security blanket: The Villages."Scott's problem, though, is that dissenters are getting more numerous by the day. The governor seems to realize that, which is why he started trying to reinvent himself Thursday."
Sure, only 29 percent of Floridians think Scott's doing a good job. But a whole bunch of them live in the conservative retirement community.
In "America's friendliest hometown," you are free to shortchange public schools and gut the state's environmental-protection program. The crowd will still go wild.
You can even veto $12 million for homeless veterans and $3 million for the Wounded Warrior Project — just a few days before Memorial Day — and everyone will cheer.
"It's always — and always will be — a beautiful day in The Villages," Scott told the supportive crowd.
What do these folks care?
They've already been through public schools. Many already enjoy their pensions.
So now Scott is free to go after everyone else's schools and pensions … as long as he also cuts taxes and leaves their Medicare alone.
Scott did just that Thursday. He signed the very budget that cut funding for public education — which is already below the national average — by more than $1 billion.
After vetoing projects for universities, the environment and veterans — things Scott described as "frivolous" and "wasteful" — he then called on legislators to redirect the money to schools."When going gets tough, Gov. Scott heads to The Villages".
It was a con for the ages.
Anyone paying a lick of attention knew that it was Scott himself who had called for the biggest school cuts in Florida history (after promising he would not).
And yet now — after legislators followed his orders — he was going to try to blame them?
Yes, indeed. His staff even unfurled a banner that read: "Less Waste. More for Education."
Even House Speaker Dean Cannon called out Scott on this flagrant fabrication. "The budget we sent him funds education at a higher level than the Governor recommended just a few months ago," Cannon said.
Scott's posturing was obvious malarkey.
"Republican operatives searched the crowd"
"Each detail of Florida Gov. Rick Scott's first budget signing was painstakingly considered."
From the location — a conservative retirement community in Central Florida — to the mini-red "veto" Sharpie pens Scott handed out as keepsakes."Staffers and Republican operatives searched the crowd of about 200 looking for people holding anti-Scott signs."
From the music that would announce Scott's arrival to the stage, to, it turns out, who could be there.
At the urging of Scott officials, Sumter County sheriff's deputies escorted a group of more than a dozen Democrats — mainly retirees who live in The Villages — from Thursday's event at the town square.
The $69 billion state budget signing ceremony was a "private event."
They were noted and asked to leave. Those with pro-Scott signs were allowed to stay.The Republican Party of Florida rented the town square for the ceremony, which gave party officials the right to say who stays and who goes, deputies said."Scott scripts budget event".
"We came here to say what we support," said Lawrence Shipley, 68, one of the Democrats removed from the event. Shipley is president of The Villages Democratic Club, which he says has about 275 members.
"We support the police," he said. "We support public education."
Shipley said the group did not intend to heckle or harass Scott, but it did not matter. Deputies moved them across the street.
"Just another pandering politician"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "The governor who claimed he's not a typical Tallahassee politician demonstrated again Thursday he is no different at all. Gov. Rick Scott used his line-item veto power in the state budget to protect a powerful legislator, punish some others and advance his own narrow ideology over the best interests of Florida. Facing abysmal public approval ratings, Scott even attempted to recast himself as a champion of more money for public schools when he had called for deeper cuts than the Legislature approved. Just another pandering politician."
- Scott's claims of striking a record $615 million in budget vetoes is an illusion. Nearly half of that total — $305 million — came from eliminating spending authority for buying Florida Forever conservation lands.Scott's "pays little attention to any views except those espoused by the most conservative wing of his party." "Gov. Scott panders, veto pen in his hand".
- Scott was even more disingenuous in claiming he was whacking roughly $165 million in higher education building money because the projects would require the selling of bonds and "Florida is borrowing beyond its self-imposed constraints." But that's not true.
"$615 million in cuts in $69 billion budget". See also "Scott's record $615 million in budget vetoes eliminates money for FAU, PBSC and Belle Glade", "", "", "Vetoes will be felt here", "Central Florida projects vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott" and "Scott vetoes bill that would eliminated agency overseeing medical care of Fla. prisoners".
Obama, Nelson poll numbers look good
"President Barack Obama’s approval rating is 51 percent in Florida, a spike of 7 percentage points after the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday."
“Whether these numbers represent a ‘bin Laden bounce,’ President Barack Obama’s popularity is up in Florida, which will be a crucial state for him in the 2012 campaign,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute."New poll shows growing support in Florida for Obama, Sen. Bill Nelson". See also "Poll: Floridians warm to Obama; in U.S. Senate race, Nelson on top". The poll: "Obama gets big bump in Florida; Nelson leads GOP challengers, with no clear leader".
The poll is the latest sign that Republicans could face a far different political landscape in Florida than in 2010, when they won every statewide office and picked up four U.S. House seats.
In addition to Obama’s numbers, his highest in Florida since June 2009, the poll shows a long road for Republicans hoping to replace Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
Nelson holds leads of between 20 to 25 points over three hypothetical contenders: former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos and former state Rep. Adam Hasner.
The Republican primary matchup between those three is wide open, the poll shows.
"Scott ticks off environmentalists"
"Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday vetoed $615 million in spending - of which nearly half was for land-buying. But the $305 million vetoed was speculative because it required the state to sell land in order to come up with the money to buy more." "Scott ticks off environmentalists by cutting water districts, vetoing Florida Forever".
"Emotional assault on the Republicans"
"In an emotional assault on the Republicans, new Democratic Party Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz today called the GOP agenda 'anti-women' and 'a war on women' that will backfire on Republicans in the 2012 election and provide a cushion for President Obama's re-election bid." "New DNC Boss Calls GOP 'Anti-Women'".
Scott's latest gems
Some of Rick Scott's latest gems:
State employees will be required to put 3 percent of their salaries toward retirement starting in July."Scott signs state worker retirement changes". See also "Scott Claims $615 Million in Budget Cuts", "Gov. Rick Scott signs pension reform into law" and "Scott Line-Item Vetoes Parallel TaxWatch 'Turkeys'".
Gov. Rick Scott signed that bill and 27 others into law Thursday. He also issued five vetoes.
Public employees previously contributed nothing to their retirement plans, leading Democrats, unions and teachers groups to liken the 3 percent requirement to a pay cut after years without raises. ...
The reforms also eliminate cost-of-living increases on retirement benefits earned after July 1.
"It is unfair for public sector employees to have a guarantee that the private sector does not," Scott wrote[*].
Despite calls from the Everglades Foundation for a veto, Scott also signed a bill that revises Florida's water management system policies.
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*Scott will no doubt be receptive to handing public employees wages and benefits that private sector employees enjoy, but public sector employees do not. We look forward to enjoying the logical consistency.
"James Madison Institute Cheers 2011 Legislative Session".
Casino magnate buyin' in Miami
"The owners of the Miami Herald today announced the sale of its historic building on Biscayne Bay to the Malaysian company, Genting Malaysia Berhad, operator of resort casinos and entertainment centers across the globe. Genting, along with Sands Inc. and Wynn resorts of Las Vegas, have been behind efforts in the last two legislative sessions to open a resort casino in Miami." "Miami Herald sells its waterfront property to resort casino magnate".
"Some of the top officials in the administration of Gov. Rick Scott in the last few weeks have finally begun filling the ranks of senior management."
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll earlier this month hired John Konkus as her chief of staff."Scott administration filling out top positions".
Konkus, who is earning $87,500, had worked the last four years as district director for U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala. Konkus had also managed a 2006 congressional campaign and before that he had worked for former U.S. Rep. Sherwood "Sherry" Boehlert, R-New York.
Florida Surgeon General and Department of Health Secretary Frank Farmer meanwhile has hired a point man to coordinate efforts between the health department and the state Attorney General’s Office to better prosecute doctors who help keep Florida’s pill mills in business.
Richard C. Solze, who has been a Republican Party committeeman from Bradford County, was hired by the state on May 9 and makes $80,000 annually. ...
J. Layne Smith started work on May 2 as the new general counsel for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. That's the same day that new secretary Ken Lawson also started. ...
Glenda Thornton was hired in April as general counsel for the Department of Lottery.
Thornton, who is making $105,000 a year, had previously worked at the Bateman Harden law firm in Tallahassee as well as the law firm of Foley & Lardner. Thornton, a graduate of FSU law school, has also been deeply involved in Tallahassee civic activities, including serving on the area Chamber of Commerce as well as various local boards.
To recall the governor
"Just weeks after the 2011 session ended, Rep. Rick Kriseman has filed legislation for next year that would let voters decide whether to recall the governor, members of the Cabinet and the Legislature. Kriseman said he had 30,000 people tell him on his Facebook page they liked the idea." "Undaunted Democratic legislator pushes recall provision again".
A crisis in waiting
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "State law requires local governments in Florida to offer their retirees health insurance at the same cost as coverage for active employees, which amounts to a discount for retirees. And many local governments are committed through contracts with their employees to continue paying some or all of their health insurance premiums after they retire. Yet governments typically have failed to reserve enough money to keep up with the mounting cost of these promises. A significant majority haven't put any money aside." "Health insurance burden".