Florida GOP Practicing Hoovernomics.

30 01 2009

By Kartik Krishnaiyer

Earlier this week the Tallahassee Democrat reported that the Chiles Endowment Fund is being eyed again by GOP lawmakers and Governor Crist.  The fiscal policies that have basically bankrupted the state have been on the watch of the Republican Legislative majority as well as Governor Bush and Governor Crist. Yet much like one of Florida’s worst Governors, Fred Cone who led the state during the Depression.

Cone was a doctrinaire conservative much like many fellow Democrats of the day. David Sholtz, who had been the Governor in FDR’s first four years as President employed progressive programs to try and jump start Florida’s economy. But under Cone the state backslid because of an unwillingness to raise revenue or implement new programs.

The Florida GOP of 2009 looks like the Democrats of Cone’s era. Conservtaive, ideological and completely impractical. Governor Crist a master politician understands that this cannot be the GOP’s image. But the legislative leadership, conservative and in many cases tied to the traditional landowning families of Florida’s yesteryear.

These ideolgoues want Florida to be a twenty first century labratory for Hoovernomics. Even Republicans as controversial as Dick Cheney warned GOP Congressman about associating so openly with the failed ecomomic policies of the Republican Party of the 1920s. But the Florida GOP save the Governor clearly did not get the memo from the Vice President.


Did Crist Always Intend to Kill Chiles Endowment?

7 01 2009

By Kartik Krishnaiyer

Much like Medicare and Social Security on the federal level, the GOP here in Florida was almost universally against Governor Lawton Chiles crusade against the Tobacco industry. With the exception of three State Senate Republicans and two in the House, Republicans voted in unison for the repeal of Governor Chiles lawsuit and a year later in the Senate to override the Governor’s veto of the repeal. Many Democrats in the Senate joined the GOP effort, which thankfully fell a single vote short of passage.

The GOP leadership used their talking points effectively in 1995 and 1996. They claimed the lawsuit would create a bad business climate and that Children’s Health was not a key concern for the state. The Republicans also complained about how the initial law passed ignoring the fact that legislative trickery and deceit had become a trait of the Legislative wing of the party.

Governor Crist’s continued efforts to raid the Chiles Endowment raises a troubling possibility: Could the GOP have been waiting for an excuse to gut the program altogether? Republicans in the Legislature have never been comfortable with the administration of a trust fund that came from a  lawsuit that the majority of Republicans opposed vociferously.

So after opposing the lawsuit and trying to repeal the law that permitted the lawsuit and then finally repealing the law once Jeb Bush became Governor, the GOP is now reaping the benefits of Governor Chiles courage. The fiscal mismanagement of the state by the Legislature in collusion with the Bush and Crist Administrations has been masked by the raiding of trust funds. How ironic, and perhaps this was all by design. Governor Crist helped lead Legislative efforts to fight the Governor’s lawsuit against Big Tobacco and also led the effort to stonewall Gov. Chiles appointees from being confirmed in the Senate. In fairness to Governor Bush, his agenda did not appear as transparant as that of Governor Crist.

Unless evidence can be brought to the contrary it must be assumed based on their public actions and statements that the GOP leadership always intended to see the Tobacco settlement money “wither on the vine.” By cutting taxes recklessly without complimentary spending cuts, perhaps the Legislature always intended to have a shortfall in funding that could be masked by raiding the Chiles endowment. By cutting taxes so frequently without any reasonable plan to enhance revenues from other sources, it would be foolish to not consider that the raiding of the Chiles fund was by design.

Charlie Crist the master politician who has won three consecutive statewide elections can be honest for change. He can say ” I was there fighting it in nineties, investigating the Governor’s actions and now we have killed it, and given Corporations and Business more money  instead of allowing the money to help the Children.” Let’s be perfectly frank: once a trust fund is raided to the extent the Chiles Endowment is being raided it is essentially dead. That will be the lasting legacy of Charlie Crist’s Governorship. If he does not wish to be remembered this way and have this shameful episode hanging like a noose over him as he pursues higher office, perhaps he should explain his actions without the smokescreen of the current budget crisis.

The state of Florida under Lawton Chiles took the lead nationally in protecting children and seniors: society’s most vulnerable citizens. Now ten years after one of the great statesman in the history of Florida passed on, the leadership of our state seems to have little regard for his legacy or little conscience when undermining one of the most successful programs in our history. So perhaps it was all by design.

Governor Crist Lacks the Moral Authority to Raid Chiles Endowment

5 01 2009

By Kartik Krishnaiyer

Last week Governor Crist claimed that his raid of the Chiles Endowment Trust Fund would be “repaid quickly.”

The Tallahassee Democrat last Wednesday had this report:

Key to Crist’s plan is $600 million borrowed from the Lawton Chiles Endowment and using $135 million in payments from the Seminole Tribe that’s a part of an agreement Crist made but the court’s struck down.

Crist said the Chiles money will be repaid promptly. The late governor’s family has threatened legal action if the state sells assets of the health-care fund, and may ask that the Chiles name be removed from the endowment if it is treated like a regular revenue source.

The Governor’s plan is not only fiscally irresponsible but it is immoral. As someone who in the State Senate fought Governor Chiles every step of the way during his fight for Florida’s Children Crist does not have the moral authority to make this choice. In 1995, Crist voted to repeal the State’s lawsuit against Big Tobacco as a Senator. In 1996, Crist voted to override the Governor’s veto. This override attempt failed by one vote.

Then Senator Crist as Chairman of Ethics and Elections Committee used state money to undertake a painstaking investigation of the lawsuit and the attorneys who bravely represented the state against the Tobacco industry. Governor Crist may be wooing Democrats by the force of his personality in 2009, but in 1995 and 1996 he was nothing but a petty partisan politician who tried to score political points by attacking a Democratic Governor and everything he stood for. Governor Crist did not have the best interests of the state of Florida in mind in 1995 and 1996 but those of the Republican Party. Now in 2009, who is to believe he is not simply trying to dismantle something that the GOP fought against with all their vigor in the mid ninties?

In today’s Florida Legislature where term limits have ripped out the institutional memory of these deeds, Governor Crist has been able to manipulate the Legislature into believing he’s a champion for Children. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Crist has for years eyed the Chiles Endowment for elimination. He fought against its formation in 1995 and 1996, scoring enought points with big business and the tobacco industry to jump start his statewide political career. What objective observer can really believe he’s changed his stripes now?