Budget balance more than sense; it's sacrifice

Talk about a balanced budget and "common sense'' have become part of the popular political vernacular.

As in, "a common sense approach.'' Or, "it's only common sense.'' Or, "it makes sense.'' Two days ago, the common sense caravan came to Dade City and Spring Hill via Constitutional Day rallies with U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent as host.

Certainly, most of us try to avoid deficit spending when it comes to matching the household income with obligations from the mortgage or rent, buying groceries, paying insurance, utilities and medical costs and putting gas in the car.

Common sense? Absolutely. But that isn't the question to ask when the topic is a Republican push for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The question to the 65 or so people at the Dade City rally should have been: What are you willing to give up?

Whittling the $14 trillion national debt, reducing interest payments and erasing deficit spending will not happen overnight, nor without hundreds of billions of dollars in annual cuts. Asking for new revenue isn't a central part of this debate.

"I'm never going to vote to do that,'' Nugent said, a day after House Speaker John Boehner delivered the same message for a 12-member congressional deficit-cutting committee that must identify $1.5 trillion in cuts.

Exactly what could federal budget cuts mean to Pasco and Hernando counties? Plenty. Propublica.org identified $110 million worth of federal economic stimulus money for Pasco County in 2009-10 and more than $40 million for Hernando County.

What are you willing to give up?

Pasco Commissioner Pat Mulieri appeared at the Dade City rally and spoke in favor of the balanced-budget amendment. She is a retired English professor at Pasco-Hernando Community College, which is targeted to receive $10 million in federal student loans and grants. There also is $8.6 million for Saint Leo University students.

Should we accept ignorance and a less-educated work force as part of the trade-off? Fewer high school graduates and the unemployed seeking retraining will be able to afford college.

Mulieri frequently touts the soon-to-expand Pasco transit service that will allow west Pasco residents to travel round-trip along State Roads 54/56 to the Shops at Wiregrass mall in Wesley Chapel. The new bus route is financed with federal money. Would she shelve that?

The same question must be put to Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, speaker designate of the Florida House of Representatives. An out-of-town funeral kept him from attending the Dade City forum, but he authored a letter to the audience in which he talked about the fiscal discipline lacking in Washington, D.C.

Here is an example of Tallahassee's fiscal discipline. The current state budget, agreed upon by Weatherford, legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott, includes 61 line items totaling $343 million financed by federal stimulus dollars, according to computations by the Tallahassee bureau of the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times. It includes $290 million to improve electronic medical records, $4.2 million to aid disadvantaged children, $3.2 million for fighting wildfires, $12.5 million for drug courts, $8.6 million for county health departments, $1 million to fight infectious diseases and $4.4 million to help public defenders and prosecutors. A year earlier, legislators had $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money to plug into the budget with Florida schools being the largest beneficiary.

Stimulus money also paid for the just-completed widening of U.S. 41 between Tower Road and Connerton in Weatherford's central Pasco district. Millions more repaved highways in Hernando County.

The Pasco Sheriff's Office and city of Brooksville Police Department expanded their ranks via Department of Justice grants to put more officers on the streets. Hernando County and Brooksville received almost $13 million for wastewater and stormwater treatment. Agencies in both counties got money to educate needy children, rehabilitate abandoned or foreclosed housing, and build sidewalks and bicycle trails. Grants benefitted domestic violence victims, provided treatment to substance abusers and made better health care available to the poor and uninsured.

Let's see, that's cleaner water, safer streets, better schools, improved neighborhoods, wider highways, expanded transit, more educational opportunities and steps to protect and enhance the health, safety and welfare of vulnerable populations.

It is common sense.

What are you willing to give up?

Budget balance more than sense; it's sacrifice 09/17/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 6:57pm]

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