COMMENTARY | On Feb. 7, Gov. Rick Scott kept his campaign promise to “hold government accountable.” He constrained entitlements and cut government spending, as well property owner and corporate taxes. The problems are three-fold, namely state entitlement recipients, public sector union members and the politicians who protect their interests to score political points.
Scott’s “Florida’s First Jobs Budget” slashes spending by eliminating unnecessary government jobs, privatizing many social services and making state workers contribute to their own pension plans just like private sector employees. Florida has set records for home foreclosures and job losses. Scott reduced Florida business tax from 5.5 percent to 3 percent and property taxes by $1.4 billion.
“It’s not a budget that dabbles,” Scott warned from Eustis, Fla. “It doesn’t offer a little something for every special interest or sweeteners for certain people.” This bill “faces realities now, rather than putting them off for later.”
He wasn’t kidding.
“We cannot ask Florida taxpayers, most of whom have no pension at all, to bear all the costs of pensions for government employees,” he said.
In all, Scott cut 8,681 taxpayer-funded jobs and $4,639,206,749 in state spending. Scott also sold the private jets. Pampered state officials must now fly commercial just like the taxpayers who fund their paychecks. Welfare recipients, who must now pass drug tests to maintain benefits, are most unhappy, according to The Florida Times-Union. Taxpayers love the new plan.
Democratic chairman Rod Smith called cutting $2.8 billion in benefits of state-employees “a frontal assault on the quality of life of every Floridian,” as reported by Reuters. The Florida teacher’s union is suing, according to the Miami Herald.
Karen Hickey of the AFL-CIO said it would “damage” residents and communities “for generations to come” if Gov. Scott Walker cut union teacher benefits in Wisconsin. Their teacher’s union also sued over benefit cuts — including lack of Viagra coverage.
Incidentally, a report by the Washington Examiner reveals the Wisconsin version of Florida’s bill has already turned the $400,000 Kaukauna School District budget deficit toward a $1.5 million surplus.
Scott opponents like citing his 52 percent negative approval number. Considering the Bureau of Labor Statistics report showing that the majority of government workers are union rather than private-sector employees, should this be a surprise? Curiously, the same percentage of voters also said they preferred cutting services over raising taxes.
States generate revenue through taxes and grants or reimbursements from the federal government. Most states, either through their constitution or statutory law, require a) the governor to submit a balanced budget, b) the legislature to only pass a balanced budget or c) prevents carry-over of any deficit into the next fiscal year. Florida adopts all three laws.
As with many governors, Rick Scott’s job is to deliver a balanced budget, not win popularity contests by protecting special interest groups. Scott did that without raising taxes and while lowering corporate and personal property tax to ease the burden on businesses and all Florida residents during “the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.” Scott’s aim is to create 100,000 private sector jobs per year.
Public union employees make more than the taxpayers funding their salaries and benefits. More want to ride rather than pull the entitlement wagon. Private sector workers have suffered pay-cuts and truncated hours. They’ve lost benefits, pensions, 401Ks, their jobs. They’re tired of being told they must keep sacrificing to ensure the security of others.
Of those who “make the tough choices,” Obama admonished Congress recently. According to CBS News: “That’s why they’re called leaders.” And, since some lawmakers seem so lost on balancing budgets, Florida Republican “leaders” are preparing a major campaign to show them the way.
But that’s for a future article.