Rick Scott introduced his budget this Monday to cheers at a Tea Party event inside a Eustis, Florida, church. Back in the reality of Tallahassee, though, the new governor's plans haven't been greeted with much enthusiasm. Even Republican lawmakers aren't sure it's a workable budget. Scott is facing criticism that he's broken campaign promises, isn't forthcoming with details, and that some of his proposals could have serious negative effects on the state. In short, Rick Scott has only been in office for a month, and he's already facing a political nightmare. Then again, the fact that he's only been in any elected office for a month might be part of the problem.
The problems with and criticism of Scott's budget are almost too much to whittle down into a single blog post, so lets just go through some of the bigger problems in bullet point form.
- Scott wants to redirect "$600 million worth of local-government tax money dedicated to health care... into the state's general-revenue pot of money," which would mean local hospitals would have to fight harder for funding, and large counties like Miami-Dade could be particularly screwed.
- Scott promised his budget wouldn't result in cuts to education, but he lied.
- In fact, Scott wants to cut per-pupil spending in public schools by $300 or more, which could mean "layoffs and steep cuts in transportation, art, music, athletics and extracurricular activities."
- The budget would cut $340 million from funding for universities and colleges, including cuts to career and vocational training, though his motto is to get Florida back to work.
- Some say the cuts to education could "devastate schools."
- In a much heralded piece of legislation last year, Tallahassee finally decided to crack down on South Florida's growing "pill mill" problem. One of the highlights of the new laws was the creation of a prescription monitoring system, like those in most other states. Scott already wants to kill it. "Without this important program Florida will take a step back ten years or more into the past," Republican State Sen. Mike Fasano has said.
- Four South Florida parks could be closed as a result of budget cuts.
- The overall response in Tallahassee is that lawmakers on both sides don't think that Scott's plan is workable, and they are disappointed he is slow in providing more details.
That's just a small sampling. Feel free to ad your own in the comments.
A quick review of the articles we link to show that even Republican lawmakers are wary of Scott's proposals. Few expect the budget to pass as proposed. Yet, there is some indication that Scott may try to co-opt the power of the Tea Party to threaten them into agreeing.
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Early indicators are that lawmakers will not go as far as Scott. But at the debate's outset, Scott has put GOP leaders at risk of alienating a key element of their party -- the rising Tea Party movement -- if they reject his austere spending plan.
By announcing his budget at a Tea Party rally in Central Florida, he has made the passage of his budget a political litmus test for conservatives in Tallahassee.
He subtly made the point at a dinner with state Senate leaders at the governor's mansion on Monday night after presenting the budget earlier in the day at Eustis.
Though, the fact that even Republicans are balking at some parts of Scott's budget isn't surprising. Scott is a political neophyte, and, remember, thanks in part to shady budgeting tricks, the company he previously ran was forced to pay the biggest amount of fines for Medicare fraud in U.S. history.