With the release of the largest proposed budget in Florida history, the transformation from perennial outsider to dyed-in-the-wool politician is all but complete for Gov. Rick Scott. The political class should be proud of the short work this turned out to be.
Surrounded by the bureaucratic comforts of Tallahassee, Scott announced Thursday a $74.2 billion budget proposal that represents a whopping $4 billion increase from last year.
It was a much different environment than we saw in 2011, when Scott unveiled a budget proposal the media derided as “slashing billions in taxes and spending” at a “highly partisan tea party event” in Eustis.
“In the days ahead, the special interests and those who support big-government solutions will attack my budget,” Scott told supporters then.
Not a worry this time, Governor.
Having reversed himself on one spending cut after another, Scott offers something to just about every special interest group in the state, unless you have an affinity for driver’s license offices — he proposes closing eight. Scott seems to have taken to heart Mitt Romney’s comment that President Obama won re-election because he gave away “free stuff.”
Scott has even earned the praise of The New York Times, a stellar achievement any member of the political class would point to with pride.
In announcing Scott’s budget proposal, The Times celebrated the abandonment of the governor’s 2010 campaign pledge to shrink government, while lauding his “transformation from Tea Party booster to political realist.”
In a question-and-answer session with the media Thursday, Scott embraced the political double-speak Barack Obama perfected so well when he spoke of having the wherewithal to make “investments.”
Music to the ears of Florida Education Association President Andy Ford.
“In most of Florida, our public schools are the largest employer. Added money spent on public schools always helps grow our economy,” Ford said according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Who knew the goal of spending more money on schools is to grow our economy? If economic growth is the result of more spending, it seems prosperity should have arrived long ago.
It’s reminiscent of when Vice President Joe Biden said in a 2009 AARP town hall that the only way to avoid bankruptcy as a nation is for the government to spend more money:
“Well, people when I say that look at me and say, ‘What are you talking about? You’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt? The answer is yes, I’m telling you.”
Of course, having The New York Times and labor unions singing your praises might be the first clue your budget is not as fiscally conservative as supporters may have hoped. Odds are it meets the approval of the “smartest guys in the room.”
In the end, perhaps Scott should have paid more attention to another lesson Romney taught us: Alienating the conservative base to play up to the middle is not a winning formula. But then again, this could be why more and more Floridians are referring to Scott as a “dead man walking.”