Sunday, April 22, 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.

Comments
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18