Governor or emperor?

OUR OPINION: Gov. Rick Scott’s bill-signing ceremony should not have been a ‘private’ affair

Governor Sketetor

The Miami Herald Editorial
Thursday, 06.02.11

That Gov. Rick Scott had the temerity to cast the $615 million in projects he vetoed as “shortsighted, frivolous, wasteful spending” is insult enough. To have the budget-signing ceremony held at a town square “leased” by the Republican Party of Florida and then to sic sheriff’s deputies on a dozen or so people sitting quietly in the back because they were wearing “Vote Democratic” T-shirts or carrying signs that did not laud the GOP governor is an assault on democracy and free speech.

And, then, for the governor to claim at the budget-signing ceremony last Thursday in the “private” public square of The Villages in Central Florida that “school funding is far more important” than the vetoed $615 million projects is beyond hypocritical. This is the same governor who sent a budget to the Legislature that gutted public schools by 10 percent. The GOP-led Legislature restored some of that money, and K-12 education still took a big hit, but it would have been far worse had Mr. Scott’s budget proposal passed.

“It would have been helpful if the governor had shared this newfound emphasis with us before the budget was finalized,” House Speaker Dean Cannon noted.

In fact, more than half the money for the vetoed projects were to be used to buy endangered land to protect the Everglades or to sell bonds for needed projects at Miami Dade College’s Hialeah campus and other state colleges and universities. General revenue that would be available for schools from the vetoed projects account for an increase to education funding of barely six-tenths of 1 percent, Mr. Cannon points out.

The governor’s double-talk on education came after a straight-shooting poll found that Mr. Scott’s popularity is in the muck and sinking fast. The Quinnipiac University poll showed 57 percent of Florida voters surveyed disapprove of Mr. Scott’s performance — the worst disapproval rating of a governor in the 10 states surveyed.

Is it any wonder that Mr. Scott is so unpopular in Florida? He seems to think he was crowned emperor instead of elected governor — and barely elected at that, winning less than 50 percent of the vote. That is far from a mandate.

Mr. Scott, who bankrolled his own campaign, may think he owns the state, but clearly most Floridians do not agree. They have good reason to question why the “jobs” governor would qualify as “frivolous” such vetoed items as:

• $750,000 for the well-run Farm Share program that distributes $26 million worth of fresh produce from local farms and canned or frozen food to needy residents throughout the state. Donated food and USDA commodities are packed near Homestead and in Quincy in North Florida to help feed more than 732,000 poor children and families each year — a growing need in a state with a high unemployment rate.

• $500,000 for the Dan Marino Foundation Vocational School to help people with disabilities learn a skill and get to work.

• $730,000 for nutrition centers and hot meals programs in Little Havana and Allapattah — money that would have alleviated long waiting lists for the elderly.

Money to help treat uninsured cancer patients and to research Crohn’s Disease and other illnesses was slashed, too.

Meanwhile, the governor’s office insisted after The Villages event that his staff had nothing to do with booting out people who broke no law by simply carrying a sign without a peep. Yet deputies received their orders from Russ Abrams, an assistant to the governor. The “emperor” has been exposed.

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Copyright 2011 Miami Herald Media Co. All rights reserved

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