Gov. Rick Scott (FL) is one of a number of Republican governors who have decided to place the brunt of deficit reduction onto the backs of working Americans while simultaneously proposing large cuts in corporate income taxes. Scott has proposed about $3.3 billion in cuts to education alone, with hundreds of millions cut from the state’s higher education budget. Overall, Scott’s budget reduces public school funding by ten percent.
But prior to releasing his budget, Scott repeatedly said that he would keep school funding in the Sunshine state stable. “What I’m trying to do is keep the school budgets the same,” he said, adding later that, “we’re gonna make sure the money is there for education”:
Question: You referred to cuts in the RLE (required local effort) property tax. Do you have a plan to make up that revenue or will the schools take that as a loss?
Scott: “No, my commitment is to make sure the money that they’ve received they’ll get again. Where I’m getting the savings is, I’m reducing the state government. What I’m trying to do is keep the school budgets the same.”
Despite these promises, local school officials have worried for months that Scott’s economic plan would be “devastating” for schools. Scott’s current claim is that these reductions in state education spending are somehow necessary to spur job creation. “We’ve got to figure out how to do more with less,” he said. “If we don’t, we’re never going to grow jobs in this state.” However, legislators within Scott’s own party aren’t buying it:
“This is supposed to be a jobs budget,” said Sen. Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla, adding: “To me this is sending a mixed message at best, and perhaps the wrong message if we’re trying to make Florida attractive to businesses.”
One of the greatest rifts between Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature has emerged over his education budget, which even many of the governor’s allies view as short-sighted and potentially harmful to the state’s economy.
“How does that help the workforce get to work?” asked state Rep. Marlene O’Toole (R) “How do we put them to work in our work centers if we shut them down in some manner?” “These are public institutions that provide great benefit for all the people of Florida, have been scrubbed and reviewed over time, and you look at the support across the Legislature it’s all the way across from Pensacola to Key West,” added state Sen. Thad Altman (R).