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West Palm Protesters Rail Against "Tyranny" of Rick Scott's Budget Cuts

"I've seen the mountaintop!" shouted a woman blowing a whistle and marching in combat-style boots down Okeechobee Boulevard.

"We shall overcome Rick Scott's tyranny!" added a man who followed close behind, limping a little.

In three short months in office, Gov. Scott has managed to anger people from all walks of life -- teachers, union workers, advocates for the disabled, retirees.

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They are unified in their hatred of a man who presided over the biggest Medicare fraud in American history, then took office preaching about fiscal austerity. By 11:30 a.m. today, around 50 members of the disgruntled masses stood outside the Palm Beach County Convention Center to protest a speech Scott would soon give inside.

Among them was Meribah Haughey, a retired teacher who spent 21 years in Palm Beach County schools and is livid that Scott now wants educators to contribute 5 percent to their pensions.

"All of this is going to drive a lot of young teachers out of Florida," she said. "The salaries suck anyway. What are they making, $30,000 a year?"

Then there was a short woman in jeans, with a long gray ponytail, who said she's been fasting for three days as part of a protest organized by moveon.org.

"I have got a headache you would not believe," she admitted. "I put gum in today 'cause I'm about to fall over."

A former employee of Broward schools, the protester, who didn't want to give her name, said she was laid off twice, then brought back to work part-time, but couldn't afford the gas money to keep commuting to the job from Delray Beach. Now she's 52 and searching for work. "Everybody at the top is getting wealthier," she said.

Nearby, sitting quietly on a ledge outside the convention center, was Acreage mom Amy Hutton and her son, William. They were protesting Scott's cuts to the state Agency for Persons With Disabilities -- which has a $170 million deficit.

Hutton said she and her husband have nine kids, many of whom have Down syndrome. Most of the children are adults, and Hutton would like to place them in assisted-living facilities. But she says those facilities are now facing an uncertain future, because of the 15 percent budget cuts to the agency. Meanwhile, the caregivers who provide behavioral services to her kids are watching their salaries get slashed and won't be able to stay in business, she said. To top it all off, Hutton and her husband are worried they will lose their home to foreclosure.

"Rick Scott is a bully," Hutton said. "Couldn't he have taken that [money] from somebody else?"
 


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