Governor whacks budget turkeys

The Big Choice that many Florida politicians must make is this: Do what’s right and infuriate certain groups of “more-government” voters, or do what’s wrong and increase your chances of winning your next election.

Government’s big problem, at all levels, is spending. Spending cuts will solve that problem, but some people pout if it’s their pet turkey whose head gets chopped. My question to them is: Do you want goodgovernment, or do you want your government?

Florida had a significant revenue shortfall coming into this legislative Session. But the Senate and the House balanced the state budget without raising taxes. The fact that that they did not go back to the people and ask for more money is an astounding feat.

Actually, it took a lot of courage to do that. All the newspapers and naysayers are now ganging up, saying legislators scorched-earthed the environment, destroyed the education system, threw sick people from their beds into the street.

But what really happened is the legislature reduced the tax burden. 25,000 small businesses were exempted from corporate income taxes. What they accomplished with unemployment taxes was actually a tax cut. Common sense came into fashion when the legislature required anyone taking unemployment benefits to demonstrate, each week, that they were out trying to find a job.

The legislature enacted Smart Cap, which mandates that Florida’s future budgets cannot grow more than 5% each year. They made huge reforms in Medicaid, reorganizing government, and economic development– capital flows to where it is welcome.

In all the gnashing of teeth by public employees over their retirement benefits, the truth is that they tried to hide the fact that Florida was the only state whose public employees were not contributing to their own retirement program. The legislature brought fairness into this issue by requiring public employees to contribute modestly to their own retirement.

Then the Governor weighed in and helped by vetoing many “turkeys” that made it through the legislative process. This tough decision is sending some people up the wall.

But Gov. Scott is now on the A-list of politicians with the courage to risk the ruination of his own political future, by doing what’s right for Florida’s fiscal future. He slashed a record $615 million from state spending by vetoing expenditures he considered wasteful. If you are among those who hate the Governor for that, perhaps you should step out of the long line of people who want evermore hand-outs. Learn to do with less like Florida’s families do, and prepare to swallow unpleasant medicine when times are tough.

Half of what Scott vetoed was money for government to buy more land for “preservation”. I’m in the crowd that believes government owns enough land already. If you draw an east-west line across Florida from the Atlantic to the Gulf, and the line touches the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee, do you know that half of Florida’s land south of that line is already owned by Government? It’s crazy for the legislature to ask Florida citizens to cough up money to buy more. The correct word for such madness is “unsustainability.”

The actions this legislature and this governor took were not perfect, but the fiscal train is chugging down the track and our budget is balanced. As Jeb Bush once said, real leaders know they need to embrace change to posses the times, or the times will possess them. The actions of this legislature were a strong step toward better times.


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John R. Smith


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