Rep. Anitere Flores should be grateful that only dorks like me watch Issues, the Sunday political program on our local public television station WPBT. I can't imagine she'd have wanted her constituents in Kendall / University Park / Westwood Lakes to watch her appearance this past Sunday.
Here's a link to the video. The fun starts at 4:45. I'll set it up: The subject is the state legislature's special session -- a two-week stretch this month in which legislators had to somehow plug a $2.6 billion hole in the state budget. Among Democrats, buzzwords were "new revenue sources," like an increase of taxes on cigarettes. Florida could probably afford this, since this state has ultra-low taxes on tobacco. Yeah, it sucks for smokers, but desperate times... you know?
Now watch the excuses come pouring out of Flores. The first one:
This was a two-week special session where difficult decisions had to be made in a matter of two weeks. We're about to enter a regular session where we have longer time to deliberate.
OK, that's lame. Surely, two weeks is plenty of time to make this policy change. But Flores hasn't even gotten to her lamest defense. She says:
The cigarette tax is something that estimates say may raise anywhere from $700 million to $1 billion. That's a big difference, that $300 million. We (Republicans) as the majority party, we as the stewards of the public dollars, we can't make a budget with something that may raise $700 million or may raise $1 billion. We need to know the facts.
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Smelling salts, after the jump.
Let's get this straight. Until you know exactly how much money the state will get you don't want any of the money? Hmm. So let's assume those estimates are correct. As "stewards of the public dollars," our Republican legislators could have raised $700 million, $1 billion, or zilch. And since that question was too hard to answer in just two weeks, they chose zilch.
It's nice that State Sen. Dan Gelber was around to remind Flores that her fellow Republicans didn't want to talk about increasing cigarette taxes during all the time they had in the last session. But it's downright heartbreaking to hear him describe what has not been cut during the same period that cigs have been treated like the sacred cow. If you guessed public school funding you win. During the last two years, he says, the state has cut an average of $450 for each child in a Florida public school.
But hey, when those kids drop out, at least they'll be able to get cheap smokes!