Thursday, June 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: A budget of politics over policy

Gov. Rick Scott recommended a $74 billion state budget Wednesday that is tied more to his re-election campaign than to a broad vision for Florida. There is a little something for everyone as the economy recovers, from unnecessary tax cuts to token spending increases for education, road construction and the environment. The reality is more sobering, as the Republican governor continues to favor tax breaks, privately run charter schools and smaller government over investing in the future.

The state will have more tax revenue to spend with the improving economy, but Scott would spend most of the new money on $500 million in tax cuts and has the support from legislative leaders. The cuts in motor vehicle fees and the sales tax holidays for back-to-school purchases and hurricane supplies will be popular. But they siphon money away that could be better spent on priorities that are still suffering from the hangover of the economic recession.

For example, Scott touts historic spending on public schools. That is true, but it is also misleading and factors in the cost for more than 12,000 new students. Nearly 70 percent of the $542 million increase comes from additional local property tax revenue generated by rising property values — yet Scott brags about avoiding tax increases. Per student spending would go up by $169, but it would still be $177 per student less than its peak before the economic recession. And once again, the governor would spend more construction money on privately run charter schools than on traditional public schools.

The state's 12 public universities can expect to continue to be pinched. Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford predictably said Wednesday they will not support a tuition increase in this election year. The governor's proposed budget includes a spending increase of just $118 million, less than half of this year's increase. No wonder Florida's public universities have such difficulty keeping quality faculty and only one — the University of Florida — ranks among the nation's top 50 by U.S. News and World Report.

Also missing from Scott's budget proposal and the legislative leaders' priorities is any mention of Medicaid expansion. Accepting billions in federal dollars to provide coverage for 1 million uninsured Floridians would have a greater impact on quality of life and the state's economy than anything the governor and the legislative leaders are proposing. Yet Weatherford, who blocked the expansion last year, and Scott cannot set aside partisan politics and embrace the moral and economic arguments to accept the federal money.

The Republican election-year pitch to take full credit for the economic recovery is in full swing. Both Scott and Weatherford tout the state's declining unemployment rate, which now stands at 6.2 percent, and credit conservative leadership. The reality is that a significant portion of the decline in the jobless rate is tied to fewer Floridians looking for work, and that the state is barely adding enough jobs to cover population growth. The reasons for the gradual economic recovery are larger than anything coming from the governor and the Legislature, including the rising stock market, low interest rates, renewed population growth and increasing housing values.

Scott's budget recommendation is just that, and the Legislature is free to write a budget that better addresses Florida's pressing needs. Don't count on it. The economic recovery will enable the state to avoid the deep spending cuts of recent years. But voters who believe the state should be headed in a different direction will have to make their voices heard in November.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18