Monday, August 20, 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: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18