Saturday, December 13, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

How can Scott cut a billion in taxes while spending more? He can't

Randy Schultz asks "You might have heard Gov. Rick Scott's pledge to cut $1 billion in taxes over the next two years and thought, 'Great! What's in it for me?'"

For most Floridians, the best-case answer would be, "Not much." The worst-case answer would be, "Actually, you're paying more, chump."
"To understand why, let's look at how Florida pays for services and what the budget numbers really mean. . . ."
How . . . can Scott and the Legislature give a billion in tax breaks while spending more? They can't — if they use honest numbers.

If not, they might use tricks. When Scott and the Legislature touted nearly $500 million more for education this year, they didn't say the money came mostly from higher local property taxes.

Tallahassee sets the larger of two rates on your tax bill that finance public schools. They could have lowered this rate but didn't. Next year, with property values still rising, Scott and the Legislature could raise that rate a little and get that added $700 million for education through a tax increase they hope no one will notice.

In that case, most Floridians would be paying more than whatever Scott and the Legislature might claim to be saving them through lower vehicle registration fees, sales-tax holidays and whatever Tallahassee might do next year. Behind Scott's $500 million tax-cut campaign theme was much creative math. To hit $1 billion, the math could get twice as creative.

Schultz explains here: "Florida Gov. Rick Scott using creative math as he pledges tax cut."

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Everything Old is New Again."

Jebbie sending strong signals he'll run

"Jeb Bush and his emissaries are sending increasingly strong signals that the former Florida governor is gearing up for a 2016 presidential campaign, with associates saying he could announce his intentions within a month." "Jeb Bush sending signals that he may be getting ready for 2016 presidential run." See also "George W. Bush Looms Over Jeb's 2016 Decision."

Crossing the line

"There are several Democrats who work well with the Republican majority in the Florida Senate but Bill Montford is increasingly standing out from the pack."

"Despite his background in education, Montford does have connections to the business community. He’s a favorite Democrat for the likes of the Florida Retail Federation, AIF and the Florida Chamber and he has longstanding ties to the Tallahassee Chamber."

That’s not to say he’s a [total FlaBagger] conservative. Montford has no problem standing against the Republicans on issues ranging from prison privatization to moving state employee pensions in line with the private sector [read: no pensions].
"Bill Montford: the GOP's Favorite Democrat in Tallahassee."

FlaBaggers "debate" minimum wage. Really?

"Minimum Wage to Top $8, but Debate Continues."

In a remarkably odd response, our Governor seems to think the market should set the minimum wage:

In an Oct. 21 gubernatorial debate in Jacksonville, Scott supported the idea of a minimum wage, but wouldn't say what the number should be.

"How would I know? I mean, the private sector decides wages," Scott said during the debate.

If he wants the market should set the minimum wage, Scott obviously doesn't "support the idea of a minimum wage" as he claims. Those silly FlaBaggers.

Harvard study finds corruption in the Florida Legislature to be "very common"

Bill Cotterell: "Two researchers at the Harvard University Center for Ethics rated the states on both 'legal corruption' and 'illegal corruption.'"

They defined illegal corruption as giving money or gifts to a public official “in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups.” Legal corruption is a payoff “in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official … be it by explicit or implicit understanding.” That’s a more highbrow description than Tammany Hall politician George Washingon Plunkitt used more than 100 years ago for “honest graft.” That meant simply using your connections to get favors from your powerful friends. “Dishonest graft” meant using bribes or blackmail.
"On a scale of 1 to 5 — from “not at all common” to “extremely common”"
Our Legislature was rated a 4, “very common,” for the illegal kind of kickback.

For legal corruption, what is called “campaign contributions” — often with a straight face — Florida reporters said it was “very common” in both legislative and executive branches of government. But reporters tend to be cynical and disillusioned, especially those who’ve been around the Capitol a day or two.

No matter how many times the lobbyists say they’re only “participating in the system” by giving money to legislators, no matter how solemnly legislators insist that their votes are never swayed by political contributions, nobody believes them. Candidates for governor promise openness and transparency, legislators periodically go through paroxysms of reform, but the numbers just keep getting bigger.

Hardly a legislative session goes by that legislators don’t make another run at ethics reforms – tightening reporting requirements, changing the caps on contributions, curbing donations from some sources. They even imposed a “gift ban” on themselves, so a lobbyist can go to lunch with a legislator and deliver stacks of campaign checks from clients – but not pick up the tab for a hamburger.

"Study ranks Fla. government corruption."

"Early allies get plum jobs"

Paula Dockery: "Both Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner released their committee structures shortly after being officially sworn in. There were no real surprises at the top."

Their colleagues who were most instrumental in their leadership races tend to become their top lieutenants.
"Early allies get plum jobs"

"Back-to-back miscues by notaries"

"Paperwork errors have opened the door to a possible gain for school-choice proponents who are supporting a challenger to former state Rep. Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville, in a special Democratic primary on Tuesday."

Back-to-back miscues by notaries public kept Fullwood, who represented Jacksonville’s House District 13 until last month, from easily winning a third term. His re-election had appeared so certain that he had drawn no opponents by the end of the candidate qualifying period in June.
"Paperwork errors fuel special-election fight."