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325 posts from May 2011

May 25, 2011

Source: Rick Scott budget veto minimum: $350m...and counting

**UPDATED We're hearing that Gov. Rick Scott's administration is floating a minimum budget veto number of $350 million. But it could be far north of that. He could catch and surpass Gov. Charlie Crist's record of $459 million with just a few pen strokes.

It would provoke kvetching by the higher-education community, legislators and advocates for healthcare spending. But kvetching doesn't seem to bother Scott.

Scott has already signaled that he's troubled with the Public Education Capital Outlay program that funds college and university construction. If he vetoes all of the money for college construction (including general revenue and lottery money it could net $277 million in savings (line items 15 a,c,d in budget). Add to that the college and workforce tuition fee increases of $181 million and Scott is already at $458 million.

That leaves him just $1 million shy of Crist's record.

There are at least $120 million more in hometown spending projects (approved in just one day in conference by budget negotiators) that Scott could ax as well. If he whacked all of them, Scott's budget vetoes could reach $578 million.

Then there's the state transportation trust fund. Lawmakers wanted to raid $150 million of it. Scott might veto that, too. But the money could be tied to education, and therefore the veto could cut education more. Scott's solution: Call the Legislature back into session to plug the new hole.

If Scott vetoes that and the other items, then his total cut to the budget would be $728 million.

That sure seems like a lot of money. But it's about a percent of the $69.7 billion budget.

Chances are, Scott won't go this far.  Vetoing all of the PECO money for higher-education would likely lead to loads of construction layoffs and bad publicity for Scott. It would also negate the higher-education budget conforming bill and undo some priorities Scott has tacitly signed off on. Beyond higher-ed, some of the vetoes could seem particularly painful, affecting everything from county health departments and tuition-assistance for minorities.

Still, with the political newcomer determined to make good on his slash-and-burn budget-cutting campaign promises, it's a good bet that he'll be gunning for Crist's record. How he'll get there will become far clearer at 1 p.m. today.


Republicans Marco Rubio, Allen West remain bullish on Medicare vote, despite NY House seat loss

Democrats are chalking up their surprise victory in a New York congressional race to the Republican candidate's support for the GOP-led House's budget plan which would significantly revamp Medicare.

But some of the Florida Republicans who cast votes for the same plan said Wednesday they were unruffled by the election results, with Rep. Allen West suggesting the candidate failed to rally enough support.

"I don't think she was able to be effective in the message," West said. "If we continue to believe that we don't need to tackle mandatory spending in this country, then we're just lying to the American people."

He noted that Medicare's board of trustees has warned that the program is running out of money.

Senate Democrats sought to score political points Wednesday by putting the bill up for a vote in the Senate -- it got just 40 votes, including that of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: "My number one objective is to save Medicare. Medicare’s important to me because my mom’s on Medicare, she depends on Medicare. But Medicare is going bankrupt, and the only plan out there right now that saves Medicare is the Ryan plan. I understand Democrats are against it. That’s fine, but what’s their plan? They haven’t offered a plan, and they don’t have a plan because they’re trying to play politics with this. Let’s put politics aside and come together and save Medicare before it’s too late."

Rick Scott: salesmanship, not my bad poll numbers, key to 2012 election

Will Scott's poor poll numbers hand the state to Obama in 2012? That was one of the questions from Sid Rosenberg of WQAM in Miami, who had Gov. Rick Scott on the radio this afternoon.

After spending most of the interview on budget cuts, Rosenberg turned to Scott's poll numbers and asked the Obama question fed to him from MSNBC's Chuck Todd. (Todd, a former Miamian, is a regular guest on Rosenberg's show, which usually focuses on sports. Florida Marlins President Larry Bienfest was Rosenberg's guest just before Scott.)

Q: If your ratings don't go up here, does that give your nemesis, Barack Obama, a second term and Florida's electoral vote?

Scott: "Well, my job is to get our state back to work. My job is to make sure this is the state that is most likely to succeed. That's what I was elected to do. I ran a specific campaign. That's what people want me to do. They want me to hold government accountable. They want me to watch how every tax dollar is spent. They don't want me to waste people's money. They want me to make sure we have the best education system. But we get people back to work. People need jobs. They key to the election in 2012 is who does the best job in getting and sells the message... The national election is going to be tied to who sells the message that people believe in that can get our country back to work. That's our biggest problem.

Q: The approval ratings came out today -- 29 percent, that's the lowest in the country for any governor. Are you confident that you're going to do things here, that you're going to create the jobs to get that number up? I mean, I know you're going to tell me that the number doesn't bother you. But 29 percent, Rick? That's got to bother you.

Scott: "Here's the deal: I was elected to get our state back to work. If you think about it, when you go make all the tough decisions, when you walk into a budget deficit of $3.7 billion and you hold people accountable — you make eduction is headed in the right direction, you make sure that you're getting the jobs back, it takes time for those things to happen. We're on the right track. The right things are going to happen. ... I'm sorry, I've got a 4:30 meeting I'm already late for."

(Scott's official schedule had no meeting at 4:30 p.m.)

Mike Haridopolos takes aim at 'arm-chair extremists... revisionist history'

Senate President and U.S. Senate candidate Mike Haridopolos just sent out this email to fellow Republicans:

As I have reflected upon the work we just completed in Tallahassee and your integral and important role, I wanted to take a moment to express my thanks and congratulations to you. The challenges we faced were unprecedented, as were our accomplishments on behalf of the people of the State of Florida.

Indeed, you have taken the tough steps to put our state back on the road to fiscal health.  This work will create the certainty and stability entrepreneurs and private sector job creators need to start hiring again. And you tackled the challenges in front of you with a long-term view instead of seeking quick fixes or just kicking the can down the road.

It is not surprising that some have tried to revise history, characterizing the session as a failure and thus the accomplishments that you worked so hard for as failures as well.  The liberal and political beneficiaries of this revisionist history are predictable.  As is their playbook: single out one or two issues left on the table and ignore the voluminous conservative accomplishments that will help to get our economy and Florida's families back on track.

This tremendous body of work, that the liberal and political spoilsports can’t and won’t acknowledge, includes:
*A Balanced Budget that cut almost $4 billion without Raising Taxes or Fees
*Education Reform that recognizes and rewards good teachers
*Medicaid Reform that is quickly becoming a nationwide model
*Pension Reform
*$308 million in Tax Cuts
*A Smart Cap Amendment to Limit Future Government Spending
*The Health Care Freedom Act to block ObamaCare mandates
*Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients

Your accomplishments certainly do not stop there and are literally too numerous to mention in this note. I am proud of you and the hard work you did, not only on the part of your constituents, but in service to our whole state.

I know some of the decisions you had to make weren't easy, and we may not have always seen eye to eye on everything, but at the end of the day, we did the right thing and this was a session full of accomplishment to be proud of.  I simply won't let the arm-chair extremists tell people otherwise about you or this Legislature.

Thanks again for all that you do for our great state


For runoff, Miami-Dade candidates look beyond Hispanics

Julio Robaina, heading to a Miami-Dade mayoral runoff against Carlos Gimenez, has already coupled a couple of political consultants with experience working in the county's African-American community. And Robaina, the former mayor of Hialeah, has held campaign events outside of his city stronghold -- in Little Haiti and Homestead, for example.

Wednesday came the latest sign that Robaina will be looking for the black and non-Hispanic white vote in the race: In a thank-you message e-mailed by his campaign, he touted the county's melting pot.

"It is time to unite our community and embrace our rich diversity and the unique talents we each have to offer in order to build a better and stronger Miami-Dade County," he wrote.

In his celebratory remarks Tuesday night, Gimenez praised first-round competitors -- including Luther Campbell, who won many African-American precincts. Gimenez also reached out to Haitian-Americans over the weekend, doing an interview on Creole-language radio on Saturday, the last day of early voting.

Marco Rubio and the Hialeah state House race

The race for Florida House District 110 in Hialeah got heated with nasty campaign ads.

The ads -- paid for by third party groups -- attacked cigar manufacturer and newly elected state representative Jose Oliva and Frank Lago, the chief of staff for the Sweetwater mayor.

Another GOP candidate, Rafael "Ralph" Perez, a general contractor and former aide to then-state Rep. Marco Rubio, was not targeted. But a flyer paid by his own campaign had its own small controversy.

On Tuesday, Perez' supporters handed out flyers with a quote from Rubio praising Perez as the most prepared.

"I humbly ask you, please, support Rafael Perez for state representative," the flyer said in Spanish, quoting the senator.

The problem: the quote was apparently from a previous race. Perez ran unsuccessfully in 2008 for Rubio's West Miami House seat.

A spokesman for the U.S. Senator said Rubio considers Perez a friend, but had not endorsed anyone in the District 110 race.

Perez on Wednesday declined to talk about the flyer, but also said his and Rubio's families are good friends. "We were together from day one," Perez said.

Perez came in third place in the race, with 23 percent of the vote.


Robocall goes after 'brand' of Hialeah politics

Is this a sign of what campaigning will come to in the next month? Listen to this robocall that recently went out to some voters (text below):

We aren't Hialeah. Nor do we want to be. Hialeah mayor and millionaire developer Julio Robaina wants us to trust him. He wants to be mayor. We can't trust Hialeah's Robaina. Irresponsible development, traffic congestion and noise, backroom deals and illegal gambling -- is that what we want in our neighborhood? Of course not. We aren't Hialeah. Nor do we want to be. Let's stop Hialeah's Robaina from importing his brand of shady politics to our neighborhood. Let's stop career politician Robaina.

The call has prompted sharp criticism on Spanish-language media. Going after Hialeah does not sit well with some older, coveted Cuban-American voters who have long ties of to the City of Progress, often the first stop for recently arrived Cubans.

Of course, the attacks may have worked. The five-point margin between Julio Robaina and Carlos Gimenez on Election Night was much smaller than some political observers expected.

Who is behind the call is unclear. The file we linked to above does not immediately include the required disclaimer for political advertisements, though sometimes answering machines cut off because there is a delay between the end of the ad and the disclaimer.

Robaina's camp has pointed to Common Sense Now, an electioneering group registered to Gimenez. (The same voice used in several Common Sense Now calls and in at least one Gimenez call -- listen here -- is also on the latest Hialeah call.)

But at least one Miami Herald reporter who received the call heard a disclaimer from a different group, the Committee for Honest Government, which registered with the county earlier this month. That group is not registered to Gimenez, but it shares the same treasurer and bank as Common Sense Now. We have a call into the registered chairman of the Committee for Honest Government, Frank May.

Gov. Scott: Maybe potential GOP presidential candidates shouldn't sit down with me

Gov. Rick Scott in an interview this morning mentioned the run of Republican presidential candidates who have bowed out of the race within days of meeting with him.

Scott was joking, but his abysmal poll numbers raise the question of what role he — the top-ranking Republican in the country's largest battleground state — will play over the next year to choose President Obama's GOP challenger.

"I was at the correspondents dinner with Trump. I was absolutely convinced he was going to run. He didn't," Scott said on Pensacola-based 1620 AM this morning. "I was with Haley Barbour a week before he announced he was not going to run.

"I guess no one should sit down with me right before they're going to run. Maybe that's it."

More from the interview:

• Scott will travel to The Villages tomorrow to sign a state budget that reduces spending by $700 million by cutting money for schools and health care services.

"It's going to be fun," Scott said. "I'm going to use my veto pen."

• Radio host Rob Williams noted the protests Scott inspires and asked whether he was surprised that "everybody squeels like a stuck pig" once he started implementing his campaign promises.

"Yeah, but people, everybody gets frustated with the process sometimes," Scott said.

"But the end result of getting our state back to work, it's going to pay off."

PSC stuggles with how to find a new director in the sunshine

The Florida Public Service Commission spent part of its internal affairs meeting Wednesday struggling with how to search for a new executive director while meeting Florida's open meeting laws. The answer: assign one commissioner, Julie Brown, the job of searching for applicants so her meetings don't have to be held in the sunshine.

The PSC accepted the resignation of Timothy Devlin, a 35-year veteran of the PSC, on Tuesday. Devlin had been asked to resign by PSC Chairman Art Graham. Graham did not offer a reason for why he sought Devlin's resignation except to say it was a "private matter."

Brown said Wednesday that she would accept the position but asked "whether a single commissioner is appropriate...I don't want to be the sole determiner sifting through applications."

PSC general counsel Curt Kiser responded that the sunshine law can be difficult to navigate when seeking job applications. "It's really difficult to imagine any kind of confirguation that allows for evern the slightest bending of that Sunshine law...The wisest course is to simply have one commission have as many meetings as you want."

Continue reading "PSC stuggles with how to find a new director in the sunshine" »

The most courted man in Miami-Dade County?

Today, that could be Marcelo Llorente, the former state lawmaker who came in third place Tuesday night in the Miami-Dade mayor's race.

With a respectable 15 percent of the vote, Llorente will likely be fielding calls in the upcoming days -- if he isn't already -- from Julio Robaina and Carlos Gimenez, the two candidates who made it into next month's runoff.

At his victory speech Tuesday night, Gimenez had nice things to say about Llorente: "He had a great run" and "will be a great future leader," he said.

On Spanish-language radio Wednesday morning, Robaina spokeswoman Ana Carbonell added, "I think Marcelo Llorente played a very good role." She praised him for running a "clean" race: "He has a future in whatever he wants to do."

Of the fourth-place finished, former 2 Live Crew frontman Luther Campbell, Carbonell said she thought voters expected him to be a more "dynamic" candidate. At a forum last week, Campbell accused Robaina of paying off other African-American candidates to split the mayoral vote. (The candidates rebuked the accusation, and Robaina said he would not dignify it with a response.)

Tuesday night, Gimenez lauded Campbell.

Llorente and Campbell could help the two remaining candidates shore up much-needed support for the June 28 runoff: Turnout is expected to be low in the middle of the summer. Llorente organized a large group of volunteers, particularly in voter-rich West Kendall, and Campbell polled strongly among black voters.