JUST THE STATS
Amount the governor and Legislature negotiated for increasing statewide education spending, bringing the total to an all-time high of $20.7 billion
Amount Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature agreed upon for motorist-fee cuts during the 2014 legislative session, which amounts to approximately $25 in savings per driver
Amount the governor and Legislature cut from education spending in Scott’s first year as governor, 2011
Somewhere between the art of illusion and the delusions of grandeur that comprise Florida politics, Gov. Rick Scott managed to find the sweet spot in which he can allow himself a minor gloat over a middling legislative session. And, naturally, he is making no sense, because amorphous smoke screens are what save you in an election year.
“We’ve cut the size of government, but we’ve made government more efficient,” he said, according to the Orlando Sentinel, while apparently chasing his own tail.
Regardless, Scott’s seemingly benign $500 million tax-cut tourniquet is clearly meant to please only those with bulging pockets or those who forget what it’s like to actually have kids in school, because that was back in the days of My Three Sons. (“Now that was good television,” somebody in the Villages grumbled from the side seat of a speeding golf cart.)
But it wasn’t enough for Scott to merely press-release his pleasure about everything going his way. Instead, last week Scott swung into full campaign mode and launched a “victory tour,” without Tito and Jermaine and all the other Jacksons. And, predictably, it was torture, at least to Democrats.
“Time and time again, Scott and the Republicans in Tallahassee had chances to help expand opportunity for Florida’s working families by increasing health care affordability, fully investing in our public schools, raising the minimum wage, and by ensuring paycheck fairness,” Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Allison Tant wrote in a May 12 op-ed for the Palm Beach Post. “Instead, they focused on scoring political points and rewarding wealthy special interests. If Scott counts that as a ‘victory,’ Florida’s middle class was not one of the winners.”
Tant, like most people with something other than coins between their ears, points to the Republicans’ most egregious flourish of governmental cruelty: the failure to expand Medicaid and take the $51 billion in federal money over 10 years in order to nearly fully fund health care for close to 1 million people who now live in “the gap.” [see “Falling into the gap,” April 9].
“There is no greater failure from this year’s legislative session than the refusal to expand access to affordable health care. Scott’s lack of leadership means that nearly 1 million Floridians will continue to go without access to affordable health care. He is also leaving more than $50 billion in federal funds on the table by refusing to do the right thing for working Floridians. That is unacceptable,” Tant writes. “What’s worse, Scott and his allies in the Legislature refused to even allow a vote on the bill that would have expanded access to affordable health care. Democrats repeatedly attempted to move this proposal forward, but their efforts were ignored.”
Ladies and gentlemen, we now have our platform moving into November: Democrats are going to hammer Republicans on this expansion issue. But that’s not all, really. The other components of Scott’s victory lap – reduction of motorist fees, investment in education – are pretty transparently erroneous as well. You can say that with this booming economy, that $400 million extra in school-district-property-tax revenue upon which your budget (and tax cuts) depend are a sure thing. Property values are through the roof! Just ask Zillow! But what you’re really saying, as a Republican in an election year, is that you’re raising taxes.
Meanwhile, there was no effort to raise the minimum wage from conservatives (natch), no push for equal pay for women, and the Bright Futures scholarship program was sliced in half. That’s not exactly the flavor of populism that drives the masses to the polls.
But, if you’re a betting Republican, Democrats say, the apparent focus on cost savings and sales-tax holidays is a last grasp at trying to move a particular constituency – Hispanics – out of the blue and into the red, politically speaking. Which is sort of hilarious, because on the same week as Scott’s cheerleading convention, apparent opponent and ever-changing tanning bed Charlie Crist stepped up his call for an end to the embargo on Cuba, even announcing that he might like to get a bit of a tan there this summer. It’s a move that the Tampa Bay Times applauded, saying “Former Gov. Charlie Crist’s call to end the Cuba embargo and his interest in visiting the country are important milestones. They reflect Crist’s transformation from a Republican incumbent who supported the embargo to a Democratic candidate for governor who wants to end it.”
Maybe Scott can take his victory tour there, too?