On this day when Rick Scott has just signed Florida's 77 billion dollar budget (3 years after he called a smaller budget "bloated" -- see below), it's a good time to look at items from my list on that subject, after a few comments.
First: It's painfully obvious that Scott is bloating the budget for an election year. His supporters seem to forget the ravenous cuts he made in 2010-2011 -- and had better watch out, because if he is safely re-elected, you can be sure he'll drop the scalpel and take out the big knife again.
Second: I got a look inside the mindset of Scott supporters in an exchange with a guy named "Mike" over on Scott's Facebook page. Mike exemplifies the sort of selfish voter who lies at the heart of Scott's election chances. He is a retired man who moved here from somewhere else to escape the higher taxes there -- and in turn, use the state services which those of us who have lived here all our lives have paid for, for years. Now he moves here and votes for the candidate that puts the most money in his pocket, denying longer-term natives the benefit of the state services which he helps to strain.
This exchange with him tells it in a nutshell:
Mike Sage: Richard I don't need a great job I'm retired. I'm visiting Connecticut and gas is 3.95 a gallon because they DO have high gas tax. By the way FL gas tax is 28.3 cents a gal. If you are going to campaign against Scott you have to have correct facts. All these made up figures and lies make you sound like a Florida goober!
Mike Sage: By the way richard my taxes were lowered I now because of Gov Scott have a $50,000 home exemption. That was worth $400 a year thank you
Indie Thinker: Great Mike, is it worth those 40+ dead children because of DCF budget cuts to have low taxes?
Mike Sage: You are a little thin on facts there thinker. If you had facts if you knew the truth ( obviously from all you comments you clearly don't) you would be a Scott supporter.
Indie Thinker: Thin on facts? Sure, Mike, that's the excuse Scott supporters use when they don't have a real answer. Here are the facts: http://news.wgcu.org/post/deaths-dcfs-watch-blamed-scotts-budget-cuts Now let's see you provide a real answer, not just some bare denial. Tell me, are you as much an expert as the people at Casey? (The obvious answer: No. You're simply a thoughtless supporter of whatever puts money in your pocket. Think about dead children the next time you spend that extra money stuffing yourself at Golden Corral's buffet.)
That's the sum of it. Selfishness and self-centeredness like Mike's is what drives Scott's re-election campaign: Insulated people who already have all they need and much, much more, and begrudge the spending of even a dime more for taxes.
Now for the list.
While we can all agree that government needs to trim fat, Rick Scott went too far, and trimmed what was not fat, but meat and bone. Here are the most prominent and misguided examples, following an important caveat:
27) Rick Scott performed all these cuts to what was a balanced budget.
In other words, there was no need whatsoever to make such cuts. This is especially the case since most of the cuts made came from trust funds, not general revenue. In other words, the money came from funds designated to support specific things. This money was simply put away into a state reserve that already stood at $2 billion.
28) Rick Scott cut funds for rape crisis centers.
A relative pittance of 1.5 million dollars was given a veto by Scott. Scott’s insensate reply was that current funding and services were sufficient, which is shown false by the evidence. He later claimed there was duplication of services.
Though this is not a budget cut, we should add this here as topically relevant:
29) Rick Scott made these cuts during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
This stands as an exercise in exceptional and ironic cluelessness.
30) Rick Scott has made short-sighted cuts to college budgets.
This is acknowledged even by the pro-business and conservative magazine Forbes. In the long term, this will only harm Florida’s future and the job prospects of its citizens.
31) Rick Scott has cut funds to programs for disabled citizens, which has resulted in the “warehousing” of disabled children.
This situation has seen some recent improvements in response to a Justice Department lawsuit, but the fact that it has happened at all remains a black mark on Scott’s record.
32) Rick Scott has taken a 3% cut from state workers’ salaries under the false premise of shoring up the state pension fund.
It would be one thing if Scott had simply said that he wished to cut state workers’ pay 3% as a way to save money. Instead, he dishonestly posed the 3% cut as a necessity to shore up the state’s pension fund. In reality, the state’s pension fund is described as very healthy, and did not need shoring up. In the end it wasn’t shored up by the money, either, as lawmakers used the extra cash to cover a budget deficit.
33) Rick Scott has vetoed critical funds to preserve key Florida wildlife.
You don’t have to be an environmentalist to be disturbed by Scott’s veto of funds to investigate mass die-offs of marine species and pollution in the Indian River Lagoon. This area, which is critical to both tourism and real estate values, was rejected for funds by Scott because it allegedly had no “statewide impact.” This is a short-sighted evaluation, to say the least.
34) Rick Scott has cut funding for whooping cough vaccines.
It is true that whooping cough has practically disappeared from the modern world, but that is precisely because we have vaccines. As the story below shows, infants are still vulnerable to this disease when adults are not vaccinated.
35) Rick Scott cut the Office of Drug Control.
This office, which had but four employees and was at the front line of the fight against deadly pill mills, had a budget of only $500,000, but Scott dumped its work on the already strained resources of the Department of Health.
36) Rick Scott cut funds to the disabled – persons with Down syndrome, autism, and other developmental disabilities.
Florida already ranked near the bottom among states in support for these kinds of services, but Scott still implemented a devastating 15% budget cut. To make matters worse, providers were not informed of the cuts until they actually took place, giving them no time to prepare or seek alternatives.
The alleged reason was a $170 million deficit being run by the Office of Persons with Disabilities. One can only ask two questions. First, on what moral grounds can one argue that a small tax increase was not the better option, especially since, as noted above, a balanced budget was still achievable? Second, what does it say that a man like Scott, whose net worth is estimated at least $83 million at last count, failed to show leadership by donating some of his own money to help this vulnerable population?
Under pressure, Scott did reverse himself on this issue weeks later, but the fact that he considered this a judicious move at all speaks volumes.
And again, though not a budget cut, this should be added as topically relevant:
37) Rick Scott participated in a Special Olympics event after cutting funds to the disabled.
In an astounding display of irony, Scott attended a torch run for the Special Olympics at the same time as he announced these cuts for the disabled. This displayed crass insensitivity and cluelessness, and indicates that Scott believes that showy public gestures are more meaningful than tangible support.
38) Rick Scott has passed the costs of disputed Medicaid payments on to Florida’s counties.
The counties are ill-equipped to afford what has been called an “unfunded mandate.”
39) Rick Scott vetoed funds for legal assistance to the poor.
40) Rick Scott vetoed funds for specialized health care for poor migrant workers.
Low wage workers frequently exposed to pesticides are apparently not a good target for assistance.
41) Rick Scott cut funds for at-risk pregnant women.
Again, Scott targets a vulnerable population segment.
42) Rick Scott cut funds for senior centers to feed needy senior citizens.
43) Rick Scott cut funds that would have given jobs to the disabled.
44) Rick Scott cut funds for research to cure cancer and paralysis.
45) Rick Scott’s budget cuts to the Department of Children and Families have resulted in the deaths of more than 40 children.
These deaths would have all been preventable had sufficient resources been made available. Again, these were budget cuts from a balanced budget, and were not necessary. They did nothing, as Scott would claim, to “grow jobs” for the state.
46) Rick Scott cut the corporate income tax, which was already among the lowest in the nation, and barely affected any businesses.
Although the tax was only 5.5%, and was paid by less than 2% of businesses here, Scott claimed it would “send a message that the state was open for business.” Was that message somehow lacking before?
Other Misguided Budget Moves
This category is for inadequate funding, pork expenditures, and proposed changes that did not make the cut above.
47) Rick Scott has devoted a pittance to the restoration of Florida’s springs.
Scott devoted $37 million to the restoration of 10 of Florida’s springs. While he made a great deal of political hay about this, it needs to be kept in perspective: Florida has a thousand springs, and many of them have the same problems as the 10 popular ones Scott selected. He clearly chose just a few popular springs as a way to bring shallow publicity to his patchwork solution, while not doing anything to solve the real and underlying problems.
48) Rick Scott planned to cut the state’s cybercrime unit.
At a time when this type of crime is increasing exponentially, and claims so many children and teenaged victims, Scott’s proposed cuts reflected short-sightedness, and ignorance of the workings and importance of technology.
49) Rick Scott wanted to disband the Florida Highway Patrol.
This move, opposed by law enforcement, including a member of Scott’s own transition team, would have raised local property taxes and decreased the efficiency of police services by transferring responsibilities to county law enforcement.
50) Rick Scott proposed completely cutting funds to homeless programs even as he professed to “care completely” about the problem.
Once again, Scott’s reasoning was that he didn’t want to raise taxes. Scott clearly has no perception that taxation might serve some sort of useful purpose. This included vetoing funds for homeless veterans. Scott also did this while exploiting his service to the homeless at a shelter, for a photo op.
51) Rick Scott has proposed shrinking the state’s hurricane fund, even though this would increase premiums.
Scott’s proposal showed thoughtless disregard for costs imposed on everyday people, the same people he is supposedly trying to spare from taxation costs.
52) Rick Scott authorized the expenditure of $600,000 in taxpayer dollars to redecorate the Governor’s mansion.
This speaks to Scott’s priorities. It should be noted that: Another $200,000 was offered by private donors; the upgrades were purely cosmetic, and not for security purposes; and this expenditure is especially damning in light of the prior cuts, and current economic conditions.
53) Rick Scott vetoed $5.7 million for mental health programs in 2012, but left untouched $10 million in economic incentives for producers of violent films.
It may be said that the film makers brought jobs and money into Florida. Fine. Then why not approve both, since those jobs and money can help pay for the mental health programs?
54) Rick Scott authorized the expenditure of over $400,000 for a state business logo.
Again, at a time when Scott was insisting that other agencies tighten their belts, and was laying off state workers, this is an absurdity – especially when more than half of that money went to a company from out of state.
55) Rick Scott tried to pass a law forbidding the deduction of union dues from payroll.
The issue here is not the actual deductions; it doesn’t matter where you stand on that. The point is that it was a waste of time in a “right to work” state like Florida, where only 6 percent of the people are union members, and many of those that are, are members of police or fire organizations which support the procedure. Scott is cluelessly implementing a lawmaking program designed for other states.
152) Rick Scott wants the state to pay $100 million for tourism advertising, contrary to his “small government” actions of the past.
The issue is not whether the state should or should not spend money to advertise for tourism; the issue is that Scott has, over the past several years, made a steady drumbeat out of cutting government costs and giving the private sector work, including cutting the jobs of state workers or handing them over to private companies. So why isn’t the private sector spending their own money for this?
160) Rick Scott has misled voters regarding the tax savings from a hurricane supplies tax holiday.
Scott used 2007 numbers to make his estimate. As a businessman, he certainly knows better than to use numbers that old to make estimates. The tax holiday itself is an obvious pander to voters in an election year; inflating the numbers makes it even worse, especially when Scott had available to him more recent estimates made by economists.
186) Rick Scott has proposed a $74 billion budget for 2014, after calling the 2011 budget of $70 billion “bloated.”
It seems both bloating and hypocrisy are in the eyes of the beholder.
192) Rick Scott hypocritically cancelled a money-saving move of a Pensacola parole office.
Scott, in the past, was on a rampage cutting Corrections costs, including handing the jobs of state workers over the a private company. But when faced with protestors, Scott cancelled a move that would have saved $33,000 a year. What happened to his principles?