By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
There are times when you don’t want to be right.
Monday was such a day.
Newly elected Gov. Rick Scott unveiled his budget proposal, and as expected, it was stunning in its disregard for middle-class state workers and public education — and in its generosity to businesses and kowtowing to the tea party.
Scott wants to fire nearly 10,000 state workers. Which is truly remarkable considering his campaign theme was, “Let’s get to work.”
I guess that slogan should have had an asterisk: *unless you’re a state worker.
He promised to create 700,000 additional jobs. So he starts by proposing the cutting of 10,000 jobs. For those keeping score at home, that’s -710,000 for his term.
Scott wants to cut $4.8 billion from schools at a time when some high schools can’t even afford copy paper. That’s a cut of $703 per student. But the man who refused to take health care money from the big, bad federal government hopes to mitigate that massive per-pupil cut by taking a handout from … the federal government.
But he found $250 million in the state budget to hand over to private schools.
The Department of Children and Families, which has been underfunded and overwhelmed for years, stands to lose $178 million and 1,800 jobs.
Of course, the cut-taxes crowd is giddy.
In a gushing e-mail, Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, called Scott “bold and creative.”
Calabro wrote: “People are hurting now and this budget puts money back in the hands of Florida families…”
In the next sentence, he divulges the big pay-off, by way of a tax cut, for Florida families: $500. Over two years.
Let’s see … $250 a year in return for losing nearly 10,000 jobs, forcing 650,000 public employees to pay more for pensions, and gutting the DCF.
Heck, that $250 a year doesn’t even come close to making up for the $430 per-pupil cut (and that’s with the federal infusion of money) in education funding.
Twenty bucks a month. From past experience, I can tell you that parents of school kids will spend more than that to make up the shortfall for programs like band and sports.
Hope these guys run numbers better in their businesses.
Actually, Calabro wouldn’t know about that. The point man for cutbacks has earned a living his entire adult life from state and nonprofit jobs. In fact, according to Florida TaxWatch’s tax filing, Calabro’s salary in 2007 was $289,682. He received more in benefits ($55,017) than many police, teachers and firefighters make in annual salary.
I suppose, to borrow a phrase from comedian Chris Rock, that is “the hypocrisy of democracy.”
Scott’s budget proposal — the actual budget will be determined by the legislature, but has to be signed by Scott — would have folks such as police, teachers and firefighters pay five percent of their pay into their pensions.
One of the reasons these cuts are so deep is that Scott, a mega-millionaire former CEO of a health care company that defrauded Medicare, wants to phase out corporate income tax in Florida.
He wants to make the climate more business-friendly in Florida so companies will hire those 700,000 (and 10,000).
Although it seems like a tremendous leap of economic faith (and bad business) to believe that cutting 10,000 jobs today will provoke businesses to hire 710,000 jobs tomorrow.
Just look at the news this week from the business news network CNBC: 72 percent of the top 500 companies in the country beat earnings estimates last quarter.
The headlines include:
- Mastercard Profit Up 41% on Higher Consumer Spending
- Loews Beats Estimates on Hike in Income
- Tyson Foods Reports Jump in Earnings
- Dow Chemical Rides Brisk Sales to Top Forecasts
- Merck Beats Estimates, but Guidance Cautious
- Kellogg Earnings Rise, Raising Some Prices
- AutoNation Profit Tops Estimates
Small-business confidence is at a three-year high. And they’re still not hiring. The problem, they say, is that people aren’t buying.
If people aren’t buying, it’s because they’re not working.
And if Scott has his way, there’ll be another 10,000 Floridians who’ll be buying a little less.