Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Leave No Millionaire Behind

Florida Governor Jeb Bush announces his new budget:

Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday unveiled a proposed $61.6 billion state spending plan that would cut taxes paid by Florida’s wealthiest while hitting students with higher tuition, cutting medical services to the state’s neediest and providing little new money for public schools.

Buoyed by a robust economy and a boost in post-hurricane tax collections from rebuilding efforts, the governor’s proposal is $4 billion higher than the state budget approved by the Legislature last spring and continues to add to Bush’s tax cutting legacy with a call for $285 million in tax relief.


“I believe this is a common-sense budget based on sound conservative principles,” Bush said. “Cutting taxes is a good thing if it spurs economic activity, which creates revenue for government at all levels. It’s a lot easier to craft a budget when you have a good economy based on a strong business climate.”

Although the governor’s package calls for a $1.1 billion increase in public school spending, including items outside the education budget such as capital expenditures, local education officials said most of their share would be eaten up by the constitutional mandate to reduce class sizes and making room for thousands of new students.

“They’ll make the argument that they put a lot of money in, but the budget is really short,” said Broward Schools Superintendent Frank Till.

Broward would get $80 million in new funds under the governor’s plan. Palm Beach County would get another $88 million and Miami-Dade, $93.6 million. But about half of the money would go toward reducing class sizes, with another large chunk going toward hiring more teachers for new students and paying for required programs such as reading.


Local advocates, meanwhile, blasted the governor’s call to reduce $398 million in spending on the Medically Needy program, which provides medical services and prescription drugs for nearly 36,000 sick Floridians who can’t get insurance coverage.

“I can’t understand why they want to keep throwing away lives to give somebody a tax break,” said Bill Rettinger of Hollywood, a severe asthmatic and bone transplant patient who has been in the Medically Needy program since 1999. “I can’t understand that mind-set, where 36,000 are expendable but a $136 million [intangibles] tax break isn’t.”


Democrats immediately challenged Bush for cutting back on health care for the state’s needy and relying more on local taxpayers to foot the bill for state programs while giving tax cuts to the wealthy and big business.

“The governor is once again determined to leave no millionaire behind,” Senate Democratic Leader Pro Tem Skip Campbell of Fort Lauderdale said of Bush’s plan to phase out the intangibles tax, which is paid by Floridians who have average assets of at least $1.2 million. [Sun-Sentinel]

I’m not sure if the Florida public schools and the needy can survive on such prosperity.