Health Care and Housing Cuts Cannot be Healed

15 01 2009

Florida is suffering worse than most parts of the country during this current recession. The state has cut critical services while continuing the ideological priorities of the majority party by not seeking new revenue streams and not scaling back the outrageous regressive tax cuts of the past several years.

Even more troubling is the raiding of the Lawton Chiles Endowment fund. As we’ve chronicled on this website, the GOP fought Governor Chiles when he courageously took on the tobacco companies on behalf of Florida’s citizens. The Legislature had the opportunity to write language to the document ensuring repayment of the fund. Cynically thinking, perhaps this decision by the GOP leadership is an attempt to kill the fund altogether. In the last several days Governor Crist has shown more good faith than I expected of him on this issue. However, the Legislature, particularly the House which has only two members that were around for the fights of the 1990s (Rep. Ron Saunders and Rep. Faye Culp,) has shown nothing but bad faith on this very serious issue.

I do not like cuts in education, which is already woefully funded in Florida, but I personally am much more concerned about losing $40 million from Developmental Disabilities waivers and $100 from Hospital Care than the $500 million cut statewide from K-12. Given the percentage of the overall budget that K-12 funding represents, it actually made out well in these cuts compared to other critical statewide programs.

This choice did not have to be made: by ruling out of bounds any attempts to enhance revenue in this Special Session the leadership of this state made it a choice between Education and Health Care. Now while both were cut, the Education was cut a lot less severely as a percentage of overall spending than Healthcare, or Children’s Health. The raiding of the Chiles Fund to save education dollars and mask the shortfalls of several years of tax cutting is not acceptable either.

We’ve discussed at length on this website the 2002 Class Size Amendment which Kendrick Meek spearheaded statewide. School Districts have known they would have to implement this change in the law for six years and yet still claim they are having trouble because of inadequate funding. For the most part Legislators of both parties have sided with the districts on this matter and seem to wish the class size mandate would go away.

Another horrible cut is that of affordable housing to the tune of $190 million from yes, a trust fund. The raiding of trust funds that exist for purposes of low income health care and housing sadly fits the GOP’s ideological agenda of the past several years. Education cuts may sting but cuts to trust funds and programs that affect the most vulnerable in our society sting even more.


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?