Jeb cuts tax for wealthy, then declares FLA will cut programs for working people!

Vital programs for children cut again January 31, 2001 Editor: In their zeal to fulfill political "needs" of the moment, newly empowered leaders sometimes make egregious strategic errors. For example, shortly after coming to power in Cuba, Fidel Castro allowed his countrymen to feast on beef steak -- a privilege earlier enjoyed only by the wealthy. In short order, almost all Cuban cattle were devoured leaving insufficient breeding stock for the future. Thus, while in the short-term everyone enjoyed beef, in the long-term, once again, there was not enough beef to go around.

Gov. Jeb Bush appears not to be immune to similar strategic blunders. In his zeal to cut taxes for Floridians he is reducing funding for programs vitally needed by Florida’s children. The first target for budget-cutting appears to be infants and pregnant women in Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties. The administrative budget for the Healthy Start coalitions of these counties is about to be reduced from the present level of $600,000 to $175,000 -- a cut of $425,000 or 70 percent of the original. Is such a deep cut needed? Conversely, if we really care about providing proper care for the newborn, shouldn’t we be considering an increase rather than a reduction?

A second and equally unwise budget cut is directed at our school children. In his fervor to cut taxes, Gov. Bush has determined to slow the rate of improvement in our public schools. The increase in state funding for education will be the smallest in years. In the past three years we have increased per-student spending by $200 to $300 each year. This year the increase will be $158 per student. Our students deserve better.

Strategically speaking, aren’t we doing to our children what Castro’s minions did to their breeding stock? We’re about to consume in tax cuts the monies needed to assure a better, more fulfilling future for our children. This business of cutting taxes at the expense of our children’s futures is extraordinarily short-sighted and unworthy of our governor. I hope he reorders his priorities and avoids this cruel folly.
¦ Carl F. Firley Budget: Bush plan puts funding for local mental, public health programs in jeopardy

Palm City Budget: Bush plan puts funding for local mental, public health programs in jeopardy Gov. Jeb Bush is requesting that $32 million in specific projects in the health and human services field be placed into a pool of $25 million to compete with each other for funding.


Tax Sanity in Florida

[19] Florida state Sen. Jim Horne (R), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, helped lead the fight to reject more than $300 million of tax cuts sought by Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and House Speaker Tom Feeney

(R). Horne, working with Senate President John McKay (R), was driven to reject the tax cuts by slowing state revenue and the need to better fund education and medical services.

[20] The tax cuts would have come mainly in the form of a reduction in the intangibles tax on stocks and bonds -- a move that would have benefited the state's wealthy residents. The governor's plan would also have extended the sales tax holiday on clothing for another year. As everyone should know by now, sales tax holidays are the epitome of bad tax policy. The Florida Senate should be applauded if it ends this gimmick.

[21] In any event, it is always good to see Republican legislative leaders reject the impulse to cut taxes no matter the costs to or needs of the state. Besides, it's not as if Florida has not been cutting taxes over the past several years.

[22] More important, Horne has expressed an interest in pursuing significant reforms for Florida's tax system. Apparently, Horne is concerned about the fact that Florida law grants about $23 billion in sales tax exemptions. You read that right -- $23 billion in exemptions. Is that a big number? In 1999, Florida only collected $13.8 billion in general sales tax revenue.

Thursday, January 18, 2001 By MICHAEL PELTIER,

TALLAHASSEE — Nearly $32 million in proposed cuts to mental and public health programs could have a multi-million dollar impact on Southwest Florida unless local officials can convince Gov. Jeb Bush otherwise.

Bush unveiled a $43.2 billion spending plan Wednesday that replaces $32 million in specific projects in the health and human services field with a pool of $25 million.

Bush, who for the past few years has vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars in member projects colloquially known as "turkeys," said his administration is now looking at items that have been ensconced in the budget that may have had their origins years ago as a member project.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush goes over some specific funding for Health and Human Services while outlining his overall proposed budget Wednesday in Tallahassee. Mark Foley/Associated Press

Instead, Bush is requesting that such projects be placed into a pool to compete with each other for funding.

"There are going to be line items in the budget that will be taken out, about $32 million will be out for people to see, for the Legislature to scrutinize," Bush said. "We've created $25 million to deal with that."

For Southwest Florida, Bush's microscope focused on the Ruth Cooper Center in Fort Myers, a repeat recipient of state funds that last year received $315,000 for crisis stabilization beds.

The governor is looking at $318,000 for children crisis stabilization beds at the David Lawrence Center in Naples and asking that those funds not be reallocated next year.

Likewise, Bush wants to drop a request of $300,000 in prenatal programs for the Isabel Collier Read Center in Immokalee, saying the same services could be run through the Southwest Healthy Start Coalition that serves four counties including Collier and Lee.

Sen. Burt Saunders, R- Naples, said local lawmakers would continue to press Bush to fund the programs, saying Read Hospital was supposed to be funded for another two years over last year.

"We're still going to ask," Saunders said during a break from the Collier County legislative delegation's hearing with constituents Wednesday.

"That clinic this calendar year will see over 500 women."

The projected number of patients next year should top 1,000, Saunders said.

"This is the perfect public- private partnership," he said.

"It includes (Naples Community) Hospital, the physician's group, Collier County and the state. It's clearly of statewide significance."

Bush has said his test for funding a project includes the question of whether it has a statewide impact.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush discusses successes of crime fighting funding over the past two years of his administration while unveiling his new proposed budget Wednesday in Tallahassee. The chart, above, shows a red line indicating the decreasing violent crime rate in Florida while a green line indicates the number of inmates serving longer sentences in the state's prisons. Mark Foley/Associated Press Bush's budget announcement is the first step in a long process that will end in early May, when state lawmakers approve the state's budget for the upcoming year. The spending cuts are part of an overall spending plan that calls for $1.9 billion in revenue shifts to fund priority programs by making cuts to less critical areas.

"The budget process is a catalyst for a renaissance in public policy in this state, where we do challenge things and reprioritize, of course, the priorities that people want," Bush said. "This process is more than just a budget document." While proposed cuts may give local lawmakers pause, the governor's commitment to transportation and education should be encouraging. Bush's spending request calls for an additional $1 billion to spend on road building and right-of-way acquisition as part of an aggressive effort to improve roads for commerce and evacuation. Included in that long-range plan is $250 million to expand Interstate 75 in Collier and Lee counties. In addition, the transportation budget request contains funds to provide matching state money to counties such as Collier and Lee that already levy optional taxes to pay for roads.

On the education front, the Bush budget request includes a 3.2 percent increase in basic per-student funding for kindergarten through 12th-grade students statewide. The $158 increase would bring the average per-student funding to $5,140 statewide. Collier's potential funding per student would rise 3.5 percent to $5,494 under Bush's plan. Lee County's would rise 3.6 percent to $5,329. The Legislature convenes March 6.