By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
In his month and a week in office, Rick Scott has turned out to be less governor than cheesy horror movie character: the slasher-in-chief.
Except Scott has been more lethal and less entertaining than Freddy Krueger or Chuckie could ever hope to be.
As I pointed out in my previous item, Scott has attacked state and county employees, teachers, firefighters, police, corrections officers, social workers. All supposedly in the name of taking care of business.
And like any villain in a slasher flick, he’s attempted to do it in the dark by cutting access to legitimate journalists.
That was just Part I, The Big Targets.
The St. Petersburg Times gives us part two of the Rick Scott Budget Horror Show.
We’re reminded that his slasher script, a.k.a. Scott’s proposed state budget, will also go after the small and the weak. Of course.
Scott wants to do away with programs for the homeless, minority contractors (let’s get back to work, Gov?) and the environment.
Look at the numbers and the targets, and you get a sense this isn’t so much about budgets as it is about culture wars.
Shutting down the Office of Supplier Diversity saves all of $421,000. Scott’s proposal to do away with an anti-pill-mill database to track addictive prescription drugs won’t save the state any money.
Doing away with the entire Office of Homelessness will save $7 million. Which may seem like a lot until you remember that Scott wants to provide $250 million for private schools in the form of vouchers. The Office of Homelessness helps out 74,000 people. That’s less than $100 for each extremely needy person. There are 320,000 private school students in Florida. That’s more than $800 per often-wealthy student.
“It is probably the most callous, destructive, hurtful, archaic budget that you could put forward in a state like this,” state Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach told the Times. Pafford has a different approach. He’s co-sponsoring a bill that would give tax breaks to businesses that hire homeless people. That would help out both businesses and the homeless. Imagine that.
And then there’s the proposed death of the Coastal Cleanup Fund, which operates with taxes on pollution-heavy business practices, such as waste tire disposal, dry cleaning, batteries and fertilizer.
Scott’s budget director, Jerry McDaniel, explained to the Times that the reason for doing away with the Coastal Cleanup Fund was that the tax was a “significant burden for businesses.”
Make the homeless fend for themselves, but if you’re a business in a pollutant-heavy industry … hey, we don’t want to burden you with helping clean up pollution.
All together, the total savings from decimating these programs for the homeless, prescription addicts, minorities and the environment add up to a little more than $22 million. That’s in a budget of $66 billion.
Or less than one-third of the $73 million Scott personally spent to become governor.
One area that won’t see cutbacks is the governor’s office. Scott has proposed to almost double its budget to $635 million.
Real horror show.