TALLAHASSEE — Boosting his credentials as a tax-cutting, proponent of small government, Gov.-elect Rick Scott on Monday named a roster of supply side and libertarian economic advisors to advise him on tax and budget issues during the transition.
The list taps heavily into the think tanks that push the most conservative economic policy ideas, such as the James Madison and Cato Institutes. Cato toes such a conservative line on government spending that it gave Jeb Bush a "C" as a governor and implied he was fiscally undisciplined because of "explosive" spending growth in Florida under his watch, pegged primarily to Bush's $310 million project to lure Scripps Florida to the state.
The Scott transition advisory team also includes Arthur Laffer, who worked in the Reagan Administration and for whom the Laffer curve, which illustrated that in certain cases lower tax rates could increase tax revenues, is named. The idea is the underpinning of supply-side economics.
"I think you'll see a lot of supply-side and trickle down initiatives going back to the Reagan era," incoming House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders said of the incoming administration. "Some of our members weren't even around then."
Leading Scott transition's advisory team on economics will be Donna Arduin, a partner of Laffer's at Arduin, Laffer and Moore Econometrics, who was a top economic advisor to Jeb Bush and is credited with helping craft his budgets.
She too cut her teeth on Reganomics, starting her career as an intern in the Reagan White House's Office of Management and Budget.
She also has been a top economic advisor to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Republican Gov. George Pataki of New York, where she was credited with helping eliminate the state's $5 billion budget deficit.
Scott begins his tenure looking at a $2.5 billion shortfall.
Arduin's time in California started rocky — she advocated that state eliminate Medicaid optional coverage for eyeglasses and dentures as Florida had discussed — and was called an "ogre" by one legislative leader there for the idea.
In addition to Arduin and Laffer, Scott will also get advice from Dr. Randall Holcombe, a longtime adviser to Florida legislative Republicans.
Holcombe, an economics professor at Florida State University is also a senior fellow at the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute, a top booster of libertarian and conservative economic ideas and limited government.
JMI's president and CEO, Dr. Robert McClure, is also on the team.
Cato is generally seen as one of the major think tanks dedicated to pushing conservative economic ideas. Cato budget analyst Tad DeHaven, who has also worked for the National Taxpayers Union and as a budget adviser to two of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, also will advise Scott.
Also on the team will be Talmadge Heflin, director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Fiscal Policy and a former Texas legislator.
While Scott ran as an outsider — often running against the notion that government has answers — several members of his team have a background in government, rather than one entirely in the private sector as Scott does.
Saunders said while conservatives may like what they see in Scott's picks, it may set him up for a difficult time with even conservative legislators, who actually have to pass a budget. Scott is proposing to cut property taxes by nearly 20 percent.
"I think we're going to see an inter-family feud," Saunders said, referring to the Republican leaders in the Legislature and Scott, who must propose a budget to the Legislature by Feb. 4.
Incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said he didn't expect the economic team would lead to an unworkable relationship.
"He proposes his ideas, we propose our ideas and we make each other's ideas better. I don't think that portends conflict," Cannon said. He added that Scott was surrounding himself with strong advisors that reflected his plan to reduce the size of state government, a view shared by legislative leaders.
"I think he's got a good core conservative philosophy," Cannon said.
Also on Monday, Scott said Ambassador Francis Rooney of Naples, a former ambassador to the Holy See, and his wife Kathleen Rooney will co-chair the 2011 Inaugural Committee, while lobbyist Brian Ballard and his wife Kathryn will serve as co-finance chairs of the inaugural committee.
Having Ballard help out is a sign of "no hard feelings" for Republicans. Ballard, was a top fundraiser for Scott's opponent in the GOP gubernatorial primary, Bill McCollum — and has long ties to top business and industry political players, some of which were derided by Scott as "special interests" during his outsider run for governor.
Spencer Geissinger, Scott's campaign scheduling director, will be executive director for the inaugural committee. As deputy assistant to President George W. Bush for Operations and Advance, Geissinger helped plan presidential inaugurals.
Also named Monday by the Scott transition team:
• Carrie O'Rourke, Finance Director of the Inaugural Committee
• Adam Hollingsworth, director of agency reviews for the transition. Hollingsworth is currently chief of staff to Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton.
• Pam Pfeifer, policy director. Pfeifer was deputy policy director in Jeb Bush's administration and executive director of the Florida Justice Reform Institute. She also has worked for former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens.
• Edward Miyagishima, director of scheduling and operations. Miyagishima worked in the George W. Bush White House and has worked for Rick Lazio and Meg Whitman in their recent gubernatorial runs, as well as for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.
• Brian Burgess, who worked on the Scott campaign and with Scott's Conservative for Patients Rights, will be Scott's director of communications. He also served as a spokesman for Johnson County, Kans. District attorney Phil Kline, U.S. Rep. Bob McEwen and Hamilton County, Ohio Commissioner Phil Heimlich.