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How fear can be a good thing — or maybe not

In this day and age, pundits and talking heads too often use fear to influence perspectives and draw attention.

So this left-leaning columnist will not suggest we should be scared of what Florida's 2011 legislative session will yield with a governor hell-bent on cutting spending and a GOP-controlled Legislature.

Concern proves a better term, and my concern is that deep cuts will drastically impact schools and public services without yielding enough benefit to the average homeowner to spur an economic recovery.

Even if Gov. Rick Scott's prediction that his budget will help the average homeowner realize a return of $540 over the next two years, a number disputed by the Times and other media outlets, that averages out to only $5.19 a week. Yes, thanks to Scott we will be able to get one extra Cinnamon Dolce Latte at Starbucks every week.

Hip-hip, hooray.

To deal with my concerns, I turned to State Rep. Richard Glorioso, R-Plant City. He's my state representative and usually brings an avuncular calm to my liberal rantings.

But this time, he said if people are worried about Scott's budget cut proposals, they should see it as a healthy fear.

"You can't make change unless you scare a lot of people because the resistance is unbelievable," Glorioso said. "There's a way to do all of this (budget cutting), but it has to be planned out. I think the governor's budget does a pretty good job of that."

Clearly, Glorioso and I possess different political perspectives, but he never fails to come across as sincere and genuinely eager to do what's best for his constituents.

Consider education. Scott promised during the campaign he could institute his cuts without slicing into education spending. His budget, however, will result in schools having to cut dollars it realized from the federal stimulus, and some suggest there will be layoffs.

Glorioso said the projections — and a bill that could change the way the state evaluates teachers — gives us a necessary readjustment to the system.

"I've talked to some principals who say, 'I've got four or five teachers that I've been trying to get rid of for years because they're not effective,' " Glorioso said when asked about cuts. "If one school in Plant City has three, then you can assume every school probably has three.

"I wouldn't want my kid in their classrooms."

Glorioso said the Legislature just wants to implement what's already happening with Hillsborough's school district, but I pointed out to him the difference. The Hillsborough approach, funded in part by the Gates grant, thrives on cooperation between school officials and union leaders.

The same can't be said for the bill being hustled through the Senate.

Glorioso, who chairs the justice appropriations committee, also believes the government can create better efficiencies in the Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice, especially through consolidating and attrition. He doesn't believe any current corrections employee will end up unemployed.

However, Glorioso says he has expressed concern to Scott about cuts to the state court system, including the budgets of the state attorney and public defender.

I hope Glorioso maintains a protective stance for a system already over-burdened, because we need a representative who occasionally goes against the party line.

Of course, that won't happen a lot. Glorioso speaks glowingly of Scott and says if I sat down and talked to him one-on-one, I would like him.


Now in his seventh year, Glorioso has only two more sessions to have an impact before term limits end his service. The former Air Force colonel brings military analysis to his decisions, backs his outlooks with solid reasoning and told me original e-mails and letters can influence his perspective.

That's [email protected], if you're interested.

It's Glorioso's resolve to fulfill his duties while caring for his wife, Judy, that draws my highest admiration. She has endured a number of health challenges in the past year, including a battle with liver cancer. She's now well enough to make the trip to Tallahassee and attend the opening day of the session Tuesday.

I'm rooting for her, and I know she's rooting for Glorioso.

Still, what he calls an aggressive approach I call too much too soon.

"You gotta get people thinking," Glorioso argues. "If every day goes on as business as usual, people don't start thinking of other ways to do things. When they're threatened or concerned, then people start coming up and saying 'This is what we can do better.' "

For once, I hope he's right and I'm wrong — because if they go too far in cutting the budget, we could end up with some unintended consequences on a number of fronts.

That's all I'm saying.

How fear can be a good thing — or maybe not 03/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2011 3:30am]
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