By Lloyd Brown
As everyone anticipated, the attack on Gov. Rick Scott by liberals has begun. No surprise there, as he is the next conservative in the cross-hairs. But at times it borders on the absurd.
Take his budget, for example.
Critics complain that he is spending too much!
Yes, the tax-and-spend crowd, who have never met a pork-barrel project they don’t like, protesteth that Scott’s budget contains a 6 percent increase in spending.
Scott says he has submitted the three smallest budgets of the past decade during his term, when adjusting for population growth and inflation — and that his budget for next year achieves $1.2 billion in savings. He also says the state debt would be paid down in the 2013-2014 budget for the first time since 1994.
Perhaps the most impressive numbers in his budget are these: There were eight state workers per 1,000 Florida residents in the third budget presented by Gov. Jeb Bush. In Scott’s budget there would be 5.2 workers.
If services remain comparable, that is increased productivity. In business, increased productivity is what elevates living standards. In government, it saves Florida families money, which elevates their living standards.
Scott plans to eliminate 3,647 state positions. To liberals, this is a cardinal sin. They measure progress by growth in government and consider every job in government to be an irrevocable entitlement to someone irreplaceable.
Scott’s budget also eliminates business taxes for 80 percent of Florida businesses ($19.7 million). Another cardinal sin. Hiding taxes on Florida families by driving up the cost of goods and services is a favorite liberal tactic.
Of course, Scott’s budget has to be approved by the Legislature, so legislators earn credit for any improvements and must accept blame for anything they do to make it worse.
But Florida legislators over the past 10 to15 years have been fairly good stewards of the people’s money. They are likely to take a critical look at some of the items in Scott’s budget, such as his proposal for an across-the-board pay raise for schoolteachers, regardless of performance.
The news media rarely bother to inform the public about teacher salaries, other than to suggest they are at poverty level, but in Jacksonville the average salary is more than $47,000 for a 180-day job, and rising steeply. A teacher making $30,000 in 2000 and getting raises based on inflation would have been making $40,000 in 2012. In fact, that teacher was making $50,000.
State Sen. John Thrasher says it isn’t really sensible to start spending every available dollar just because the economy is improving. When the sun is shining, you should be putting money away in reserves for the rainy days ahead.
This seems especially prudent when the federal government has the economy teetering in a jobless recovery. Closer to home, there is the ever-present threat of a major hurricane, which could leave Florida in financial ruin.
Truthfully, the liberal angst actually is not about excess spending, but excess saving. If Scott were a Democrat, the clamor would be that he is not spending enough.
Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. He can be contacted by email here.