Posted on Mon, Mar. 04, 2002

By Tom Rossin

Jeb Bush is to Florida as Ken Lay is to Enron

It seems Gov. Jeb Bush spends most of his time these days running from one place to another to refute analyses, reports and polls that show his lack of leadership has run Florida's economy into a ditch and broken the back of our public education system - reports from such left-wing think tanks as the Florida Chamber of Commerce that is.

Just as Ken Lay hid Enron's fiscal mismanagement from employees and investors, it seems our governor will go to any lengths to mislead Floridians about how the state's economy has gone from surpluses to deficits on his watch.

When Jeb Bush took the reigns of power nearly four years ago he spoke of lofty goals such as creating jobs, more efficient government and a world-class education system. Now, near the end of his term, we are back to deficit spending; our school system is at the bottom of the national pile and government graft has become of the order of the day.

After promising the most ethical administration in history, Gov. Bush has overseen corruption and nepotism run amok in his administration. It is now estimated that nearly 40 percent of our $48 billion dollar state budget gets kicked back in the form of contracts with private companies - many of which employ former Bush staffers.

The "accountability governor" has undercut the oversight and accountability measures in our state contracts and bidding process. He has even gone so far as to cut the funding for the state auditor general and the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.

To take our state so far back in only four years can only be one of two things: gross incompetence or willful mismanagement.

Since Enron's collapse, the company has laid off about 5,000 employees worldwide. This international scandal pales in comparison to the job loss experienced in Florida. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 161,000 jobs have been lost in Florida in the last year alone. Bush has single-handedly cut more than 7,000 positions.

Gov. Bush is quick to pass the buck, claiming terrorists are to blame for our budget woes in spite of the fact that a revenue estimating conference demonstrated his tax cuts for Florida's wealthiest residents dug us into a $672 million hole well before 9/11.

Bush recently stuffed his "terrorism budget" with so many turkeys that even the Republican chair of the Senate Public Security Committee said people would "laugh in our faces" if we had approved some of the governor's requests - such as a quarter of a million dollars for a satellite tracking system for cows and a half a million dollar kickback to a special interest group to print pamphlets on family preparedness.

The Chair of the Southeast Florida Security Task Force probably would have found these requests less than amusing. He has had to reassign patrols at Florida ports because Gov. Bush also cut National Guard funding in spite of Florida remaining under a heightened "state of alert."

I suppose it's somehow fitting that while Florida's retirement system lost more than any other state in the Enron debacle, Jeb personally benefited from his Enron stock. In the end, Jeb Bush has used Florida to turn a profit for his friends at the expense of our future, just as Ken Lay used the employees and investors at Enron. In four short years, Florida has become the Enron of state governments and Jeb Bush is our very own Ken Lay.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tom Rossin is the Democratic Leader of the Florida Senate, past president of the Independent Bankers Association, and as a cattle rancher, he has even tracked cows. He can be reached by phone at 487-5833.

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