"A cold, hard warning about the potential damage the Florida Legislature has chanced"
Fred Grimm: "The Bond Buyer is normally not a publication that grabs my interest. But there’s something particularly disturbing about seeing the risk facing Florida’s universities assessed in the dry and dispassionate language of the financial markets."
Nothing about the faltering aspirations of college students or the moral obligation to provide young Floridians a path to a university degree. None of that stuff. Just a cold, hard warning about the potential damage the Florida Legislature has chanced by forcing the state’s 11 universities to pilfer their respective reserve funds."Even Wall Street agrees Florida shortchanges higher Ed".
“A clear credit negative,” warned Dennis Gephardt, an analyst with Moody’s Investors Service. “This legislation effectively punishes those universities that built reserves and we view the reduction of these reserves as credit negative.”
The Legislature cut some $300 million from the budgets of the 11 universities, deciding that $150 million of the losses should be replenished by reaching into the universities’ so-called rainy day funds. When it rains, in Florida, it storms like a hurricane.
"New, hyped agency hasn't done anything that can be objectively measured"
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Scott campaigned on his ability to recruit businesses."
Last year, he lobbied the Legislature to restructure business recruiting and incentives, giving his office more power. But the new director of the resulting Department of Economic Opportunity left suddenly in January after a study showed that since the mid-1990s, Florida had pledged $1.7 billion in tax breaks to businesses that promised to create 240,000 jobs. But many of the deals fell through, and only about 86,000 new jobs resulted from $738 million actually paid in incentives."Where is Scott's stimulus?".
That track record undermined the governor's push this year for $230 million more in business incentives under his control; he got $111 million. The embarrassment also led the Legislature to open some previously secret aspects of incentives, such as the average wage for jobs created through incentives. This month, Gov. Scott appointed banking executive Hunting Deutsch to lead the Department of Economic Opportunity. It will take months to assess his performance or the effect of new incentives and rules governing them. Then there's the claim by the newly formed Integrity Florida that the state's premier public-private business recruiting agency - Enterprise Florida - is rife with secrecy and conflicts of interest.
So Gov. Scott has a new, hyped agency that hasn't done anything that can be objectively measured, as the governor insists that all parts of state government should do. His first job is to show that the business-recruiting system he touted as a candidate actually can produce those 700,000 new jobs he promised.
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "A new state law gives Gov. Rick Scott unprecedented discretion to steer $86 million in public money to private companies that promise to create jobs. Now it's Scott's job to ensure that every penny of that taxpayer money is accounted for and wisely spent, which would be a sharp departure from the past. A pair of new reports highlight just how bad Florida has been at making private companies account for the government handouts they receive." "Accountability for corporate handouts".
"Normally quiet merit retention contest sparking fireworks"
"With three Florida Supreme Court justices already raising $500,000 and drawing heat for a near-fatal ballot snafu, this year's normally quiet merit retention contest already is sparking fireworks. But plenty more may be coming. " "Bumpy road to retention for Florida Supreme Court justices".
"Republican U.S. Senate candidate George LeMieux insists that he's feeling the love on the campaign trail — despite public-opinion polls and campaign fund-raising that suggest otherwise." "LeMieux struggles in Senate race against Mack — but won't give up".
Florida Republicans have "a hefty sense of entitlement"
"OK, Mitt Romney, it’s time to step up for Florida."
Florida Republicans revived your candidacy in the Jan. 31 primary. They’ve donated more than $7 million to your 2012 presidential campaign. They’re hosting your nomination bash at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. And without Florida’s 29 electoral votes, it’s nearly impossible for you to win the White House."Fla. GOP banks on Romney for seats at the table".
So now Florida Republicans are expecting the presumptive nominee to nudge the Republican National Committee into easing off Florida’s penalties for breaking party rules by holding a January primary. They want at least 99 Floridians seated at the Aug. 27-30 Republican National Convention in Tampa, though the RNC has lopped Florida’s delegation in half to 50.
“We’ve asked the Romney people to go to the RNC,” said Peter Feaman, a Republican national committeeman from Boca Raton. “If we can’t have all our delegates, can you at least seat all of us and allow us in the convention?”
No other swing state has as many electoral votes as Florida. With that mega battleground status comes a hefty sense of entitlement, which may explain why so many party activists gathered in Tampa for the state GOP’s quarterly meeting this weekend sounded utterly confident they ultimately will escape the strict penalties promised by the RNC.
"A haphazard, politically driven university system"
Lloyd Dunkelberger :Florida has the "image as a state with a haphazard, politically driven university system. "
It lacks a strong, unifying vision, yielding schools more known for their mediocrity and sports teams than academic stature."Critics say haphazard, politically driven university system hampers Florida".
“Florida has a national reputation these days that it has political intrusion on steroids,” said Charles Reed, the chancellor for the California state university system.
Reed, who has run the California system since 1998, also knows Florida well. He was the state’s university chancellor for a dozen years before leaving for California. And in 1980, he was the chief of staff to former Gov. Bob Graham, who vetoed the legislative plan for the UWF football stadium.
“It has no central plan and no central authority,” Reed said of the Florida system. “That’s kind of like the worst of all combinations.
“All of the campuses have a culture now of what’s best for me, me, me — not what is best for Florida,” he said.
"Florida legislators and Scott can't say they weren't warned"
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "Florida legislators and Gov. Rick Scott can't say they weren't warned. During the Legislature's annual session from January to March, county commissioners throughout Florida protested legislation that seeks to make counties pay about $325 million in disputed Medicaid bills."
Commissioners and their statewide association argued that local governments should not be held responsible for the costs; they made a persuasive case that disputed charges for Medicaid, the federal-state health-insurance program for low-income Americans -- which local governments help underwrite -- were rife with billing errors or the result of fraud. The state is responsible for processing the claims and billing counties for their share of payments."Medicaid mess".
Yet legislators were not convinced or, more likely, they didn't want to pay the costs out of the state budget. So, the legislation passed and it was signed by Gov. Scott.
In 47 counties -- including Manatee and Sarasota -- commissioners voted to sue the state over the law, citing the errors and saying it contains an unconstitutional "unfunded mandate." ...
Unfortunately, taxpayers in Florida are on the hook for these costs -- and for the expenses associated with going to court.
What's more, the magnitude and frequency of the errors show the need for dramatic improvements in accounting and greater emphasis on fraud detection.
Nevertheless, Florida's refusal to hold itself fully accountable for Medicaid costs and its unwillingness to reach a principled compromise with counties is further evidence of the top-down approach Tallahassee takes toward "solving" disagreements with local governments.
The Palm Beach Post editors: "At its Thursday meeting, the board of state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp., tried a sleazy tactic. Though the Legislature has set a 10 percent annual limit on rate increases for Citizens, the board was set to remove that cap for all new policies. The thinking? If the Legislature hasn't specifically told us not to do it, we can do it." "Citizens' failed sneak attack".
Rubio's "prohibited, excessive," or "impermissible" contributions
"During the primary and general election campaign, Rubio collected nearly $21 million in contributions. The FEC found that a fraction of those donations — $210,173.09 — were either 'prohibited, excessive,' or 'impermissible.' It found that the campaign violated FEC law by failing to "refund, reattribute, or redesignate these contributions within the appropriate timeframes." The contributions came from more than 100 contributors and two corporations." "FEC fines Marco Rubio’s 2010 Senate campaign".
Beth Kassab: "Public schools must sell themselves better".
"Lawmakers slash hundreds of millions in funding to universities"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "In Florida, the Legislature has given the state's public universities a green light to raise tuitions 15 percent a year. The hikes were sold as a way to raise more money to improve the quality of higher education, but they've become an excuse for lawmakers to slash hundreds of millions in funding to universities." "Ease student debt load by limiting tuition hikes".