It's veto day! The happiest day of the year for Rick Scott, who, for a moment at least, can appear both judicious and magnanimous.
On this day, he can decide, with one stroke of his mighty gubernatorial pen, which projects will net funding. And which will not.
Rick Scott announced yesterday he'll veto a 3 percent state university tuition increase (and $18 million in additional revenue) -- because down here in Florida, we're Freedom lovers, not Freedom haters. And Freedom means cheap education.
But while Rick Scott harrumphs against increases in tuition, clandestine projects abound. Their net boon on the statewide level is negligible, but they're paid for by all taxpayers. Taken as a whole, cutting such projects -- which haven't been vetted, voted upon, or publicly reviewed -- would save taxpayers six times more money than gutting education.
Florida TaxWatch, which for three decades has kept an attentive eye on the Legislature's pork barrel spending, says Scott should cut an additional 107 projects worth $107 million.
According to its Turkey Watch list, it "spotlights legislative projects placed in the budget without proper opportunity for public review and debate, circumvent lawfully established procedures, and benefit a very limited special interest or local area of the state."
Translation: Pork! And lots of it.
Florida Taxwatch has red flagged three separate projects in Broward County:
- $500,000 for the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center
- $500,000 to build a "transportation hub facility" on Oakland Park Boulevard
- $485,000 to fix up NW 21st Street in Lauderdale Lakes
In Palm Beach County, the damage is even higher, including some of these projects:
- $6.5 million for Palm Beach State College to build an administrative building and multipurpose classroom
- $450,000 for the county sheriff's office to open a mental health program
- $100,000 to Scripps to investigate nicotine addiction (Hint: It kills you)
- $1 million for road work in Belle Glade
While it's difficult to really compare pork barrel spending with Rick Scott's decision to veto a 3 percent university tuition hike, it speaks to a larger problem bedeviling the way our spending works.
If Rick Scott is as anti-big government as he claims, then local projects should be funded at a local level. Taxpayers in Tampa Bay shouldn't be paying for road work in Belle Glade.
And, if that were to happen, perhaps we as a community and a state could then pay for statewide benefits, like cheaper education.
So that our intelligence is commensurate with competitors -- not how much freedom we have.
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