Sunday, July 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida's neglected priorities

Gov. Rick Scott's budget priorities for next year don't add up — and it's not just his numbers that don't make sense. With the economic picture brightening, Florida should be reinvesting after years of devastating spending cuts that hurt higher education, social services and law enforcement. Yet the governor wants to keep starving government and hand a half-billion dollars in tax breaks to special interests.

Scott issued a position paper this fall calling for $500 million in unspecified tax cuts and $100 million more in state spending cuts for 2014-15. Never mind that Florida cut $9 billion in spending in recent years because of the recession and home mortgage crisis that caused dramatic drops in tax revenue. Never mind the state still spends less per public school student than it did before the economic collapse, or that the portion of higher education costs covered by the state has been declining while college tuition has been rising. Never mind there is little or no money to meet the demand for new roads, to fix and repair schools, or to buy environmentally sensitive land.

While Scott jets around Florida in his private plane to brag about promised jobs in return for business tax breaks, the state faces more than one expensive crisis. Two examples: At least 20 children known to the Department of Children and Families have died since April, primarily from abuse or neglect, and the child-protection system needs an overhaul. And the Indian River Lagoon, the St. Lucie River and its estuary are being polluted by an algae slime caused in part by polluted water released from Lake Okeechobee. Legislators are looking at spending a few hundred million dollars to help clean up that environmental mess.

It's common for state agencies to request more money for new programs than the governor will recommend or the Legislature will approve. This year is no exception. But the requests reported by Steve Bousquet of the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau are not for bells and whistles. The Department of Corrections wants millions to reopen prisons to accommodate a rising inmate population. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement wants money to handle the workload for background checks on gun buyers. The Florida Parole Commission needs money to tackle the backlog of ex-felons seeking to have their civil rights restored, and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles wants to start replacing the trooper positions eliminated during the recession.

There are ways to save money so it could be redirected to pressing needs. Scott and the Legislature could accept $52 billion in Medi­caid expansion money over the next decade, which would save the state millions. They could overhaul sentencing guidelines so nonviolent drug offenders would receive treatment instead of more expensive prison time. But neither the governor nor many legislators are pushing those issues.

Scott and state lawmakers are not focused on Florida's long-term future. They are all about their re-election prospects next year. To them, that means cutting taxes, finding more money for public schools and letting other pressing needs slide even as the economy improves. It's a short-term strategy when the state needs long-term investment in its infrastructure, its institutions and its people.

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Editorial: NFL calls wise time-out on disciplining protests

The National Football League kept an embarrassing situation from becoming even worse by shelving its new policy clamping down on players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.The league announced late Thursday it would suspend the 2-month old p...
Published: 07/20/18
Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is shoring up his final year in office with the proposed city budget he released Thursday. The plan includes no big-ticket items, opting instead to maintain ongoing investments in parks, roads and other basic public services....
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18

IRS making ‘dark money’ darker

Under a perverse interpretation of federal law, tax-exempt nonprofit organizations supposedly devoted to "social welfare" can spend large amounts of money to influence elections without publicly disclosing the identities of their donors. But instead ...
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

The CrossBay Ferry appears headed for another round of rides across Tampa Bay, with local governments pledging one more year of financial support. But as more taxpayer money is steered into this project, it’s important to recognize what purpose the f...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inco...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18