Friday, September 21, 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: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18