Gov. Rick Scott is nothing if not bold in the face of withering opposition. It is a testament to the man’s principles and character that he is willing to do what he sees as right even when the politics are clearly against him.
Definitely not your everyday politician. Refreshing.
So here’s a grading of Scott’s first 10 weeks in office. He has certainly not been resting on his electoral victory.
A HIGH-SPEED RAIL NIX
Easily his most high-profile and controversial decision, and the perfect example of his sense of doing right even when the political winds are against him. We are convinced that time will prove it to be the right decision.
Recent news reports about a study showing that high-speed rail would be profitable provided an “Aha!” moment for the media and rail backers. Unfortunately, it is literally unbelievable.
The Wilbur Smith Associates study claimed that the rail form Tampa to Orlando would be profitable — even when long-established Amtrak is swimming in $1.1 billion of annual taxpayer subsidy and only three out of Amtrak’s 41 routes even make money.
More incredulous is that this report claims the line would have been making a profit in the first year of operation. One way it accomplishes this fiction is to discover the line would have had 3.3 million riders its first year, up from an already rosy 2.4 million originally projected. Another 1 million riders materialize and voila! Scott was wrong.
A BUDGETARY CLARITY
Scott’s budget submitted to the Legislature cuts $4.6 billion from last year’s budget, which was bigger than it should have been. He proposes eliminating 6,700 jobs as part of those cuts and combining agencies to get efficiencies. He did the same things when buying hospitals and building Columbia-HCA, the largest hospital chain in the world. It works. And it is desperately needed in state government.
The spending had ballooned irresponsibly during the gravy years. As the economy tanked, the Legislature drained reserves and played fund-shifting games to delay responsible action — even taking one-time money from the federal “stimulus” plan.
In addition to spending cuts to close the budget gap, what has riled a lot of people is Scott’s plan to cut $2 billion in taxes to spur more private investment and economic growth. The staid, accepted view is that cutting taxes will make the budget gap worse — that cutting $2 billion in taxes means the state needs to cut another $2 billion in spending. It does not.
That is the old and largely discredited static analysis used mostly in government economic circles. But we now have a long record showing that when taxes are cut, revenues increase — sometimes far beyond the amount of the tax cut — and when taxes are raised, government revenues slow.
Florida is part of the larger national economy and much larger global economy, so not everything is in our control. But Scott’s tax cuts are almost guaranteed to increase revenues to the state more than they would be without the tax cut.
A GROUNDED EXPENSES
Scott sold the state’s fleet of airplanes that were used by senior politicians to get around conveniently. Scott promised to do it on the campaign trail and kept his promise. Of course, said senior politicians — mostly Republicans — were irritated. Too bad.
Most Floridians did not know about this fine perk for our political class. But it is these types of things and more that taxpayers are getting sick of at every level of government — government employees and politicians getting “bennies” the rest of us don’t.
Let the politicians drive to Tallahassee or fly commercial — you know, like the rest of us who are paying the bill.
We would quibble with Scott’s assertion that “the single most important factor in student learning is the quality of teaching.”
We would rank at the top of the list the home environment — the presence of loving parents who set examples and expectatons in a crime-free neighborhood where a child is fed and nurtured all beyond the school grounds. That child will be far more ready to learn than the child who doesn’t benefit from those influences.
That said, everything Scott is proposing hits the mark.
Reward and punish teachers based on the quality of their work. Good teachers get more. Poor teachers get less or get fired. A bill pegging teacher pay raises to student performance and ending tenure — principles of the private sector — is racing through the Legislature.
Scott also wants to hold schools to the same standards of improve or close. Trapping poor kids in deplorable schools, regardless of the money spent, is not “for the children.”
And Scott wants to create more competition in public schools by increasing the number of charter schools, carrying on the effective work of former Gov. Jeb Bush.
We would like to see more money for vouchers to further expand the competition beyond public schools.
A- STATE OF THE STATE
Despite the expected attacks on him from his rail and tax-cutting decisions, Scott did not back down during his State of the State speech to the Legislature.
We are seeing he is a man of his word. This is not empty-suit time.
Scott said in his State of the State speech that “All the cans that have been kicked down the road are now piled up in front of us.”
Perhaps we have the right man in office, responsible enough to start picking them up, politics be hanged.
Stay the course, governor. Don’t blink.