Republican elect Gov. Rick Scott brought his listening tour to Fort Lauderdale today where he huddled for about an hour with Democratic and Republican legislators from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
The meeting was held just hours before the state was expected to release new figures showing a budget shortfall that could be as high as $3.8 billion. But in the meeting with legislators and in a brief gaggle with reporters after Scott provided no new details regarding how he'll whack the budget and deliver on his goal of cutting property taxes 19 percent.
When we asked after the meeting if he is considering employee layoffs, furloughs or pay cuts and cuts to specific departments, he replied back with general phrases such as planning to "streamline government" and look at programs.
Legislators made their pleas ranging from boosting public education to encouraging the Legislature to steer away from issues such as stem cell research and focus on creating jobs. Scott listened more than he talked and acted almost like a teacher -- at times not stating his own opinion but asking legislators questions such as "what do you think about tenure?" "What was your perception of Senate Bill 6?"
The most interesting exchange was between Democratic state Rep. Jim Waldman who asked Scott how he plans to cut property taxes 19 percent and what that will mean for local communities' abilities to provide schools and pay for police officers and firefighters.
"I don't really know at this point how you figure to make up for those services that everybody is already cutting," Waldman said.
"All savings are at the state level," Scott replied. "We're not changing how much we send to the counties." Later Scott added: "my goal is not to change funding for public schools. My goal is finding funding at the state level."
In an interview after the meeting Waldman said that Scott's answer "made no sense."
"I walked out with no clarity on anything," he said.
Legislators or those who will take office soon in attendance included Democrats Perry Thurston, Marty Kiar, Jim Waldman, Richard Steinberg and Lori Berman as well as Republicans Jeanette Nunez, Eddy Gonzalez, Carlos Lopez-Cantera and George Moraitis.