Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Scott's budget vetoes reflect re-election campaign, not conservative values

Turns out that in an election year, Gov. Rick Scott doesn't mind spending taxpayer money. The governor on Monday signed into law the largest state budget ever while vetoing the smallest amount of spending since taking office. That leaves in place hundreds of millions in legislative special projects, many of which never received a full public vetting. This is a budget grounded more in Scott's re-election campaign than in his professed fiscal conservatism.

In a departure from previous years, Scott offered no public explanation about why he vetoed 110 projects totalling just $69 million. He did not hold a public ceremony to sign the $77.1 billion budget — $3 billion bigger than just a year ago. His office instead churned out news releases trumpeting the "It's Your Money Tax Cut Budget," a reference to $500 million in tax cuts.

The silence leaves it for anyone to guess why Scott, who says he wants to increase Florida's STEM economy, vetoed $750,000 for a proven program to teach algebra to middle school students started by SRI International in Pinellas County. It's the third year in a row he has vetoed money for a program tailored to the state's education and economic needs. Yet he left in place, among many other unvetted projects, $500,000 for kitchen renovations to the St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater. That is a nice return for Mahaffey operator and entrepreneur Bill Edwards, who contributed $1 million to Scott's re-election campaign.

Scott stripped $500,000 in funding for the Largo Cultural Center even as he let stand the same amount for a Dunedin Fine Art Center expansion, nearly $390,000 for the Palm Harbor Historical Society Museum and $2 million for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. He also let slide $10 million for a new performing arts and convention center in Wesley Chapel that House Speaker Will Weatherford added at the last minute for his hometown. But Scott vetoed $1.6 million to fight poverty in south St. Petersburg as part of the 2020 Plan, which had bipartisan support.

Scott and Republican legislators have boasted the 2014-15 budget represents record spending on education. There are new investments, like a combined $30 million for facilities for the University of South Florida, including for the USF St. Petersburg business college, the USF Heart Health Institute and the USF Morsani medical school. But state universities haven't made their way back from recent budget cuts even as Scott insisted tuition stay flat. And while public schools will spend more per student than when Scott took office, it is still less than the record from 2007-08, and construction money is still siphoned off to privately run charter schools.

A true fiscal conservative would have insisted lawmakers first adequately fund essentials like education before indulging in so much hometown cooking. Rather than use his veto pen to back up his rhetoric, Scott avoided making enemies as he hits the campaign trail.

Comments
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
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18