Saturday, June 23, 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.

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Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18