Many of us have done the research and then try to teach exactly what is happening with our lawmakers. Florida’s reputation for corruption and deceit is at the top of the charts. There is a great deal to be said regarding one party being in control for far too long – and that is certainly the case in Florida.
We have been lied to over education, environmental issues, Enterprise Florida, Charter School legislation, Public Private Partnerships and the list goes on.
Today we find out the Florida lawmakers have made very little progress in regard to budget negotiating sessions and their special session is almost over. Standing at the fore front of the disagreements between the Florida House and Senate are health care, education and the environment.
Now comes the truth – House members want to borrow nearly $300 million in bonds for projects related to Amendment 1, a referendum passed by the very voters we tried to educate before the last election showing the false statements being made in relationship to the environment. Legislators were contending they were going to use the money for conservation and environmental clean-up projects.
Voters didn’t listen to the warnings!
Sen. Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla doesn’t want to use any bonds in relationship to any Amendment 1 projects. “B-O-N-D is a four letter word” Hayes said.
House environmental budget chief Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, withdrew bonding from the House’s latest offer Sunday, calling it an “olive branch.” “I cannot be any more clear: the House is very interested and supportive of bonding as (budget negotiations) go forward ,” Albritton said.
Now why would the legislators want to do this when Amendment 1 didn’t call for raising taxes one nickel; using bond money or borrowing any funds? Amendment 1 was merely about prioritizing, forcing the state to set aside a tiny percentage of its massive budget for clean water, fresh air and preserved land. (Specifically, we’re talking a third of existing doc-stamp taxes on real-estate, which equals about 1 percent of the state’s $77 billion budget.)
At least that is what the legislators wanted us to believe. Today, June 7, 2015 Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel did a marvelous job of exposing the Florida legislators and the massive shell games they continue to play:
Remember the Lottery? Florida Politicians May Try the Same Shell Game With the Environment!
by Scott Maxwell
Most Floridians are painfully familiar with the Florida Lottery shell game.
It was the political con of the century — one that involved tens of billions of dollars.
It started in 1986 when voters were told that, if they approved a lottery, the money would go to education.
We even called it “The Education Lottery.” That way, when you plunk down 10 bucks for a scratch-off, you’re not really gambling … you’re donating to a scholarly cause. How altruistic of you.
Well, folks started “donating” by the droves. A billion bucks. Then $10 billion. Then $20 billion … all of it supposed to improve our schools.
But Floridians didn’t notice much change in education. We still had one of the lowest-funded school systems in America. We still do.
In fact, 20 years after the lottery started, the Sentinel did an investigation and determined that education funding had actually dropped from 59 percent of the state budget in 1987 to 51 percent in 2007.
Yes, after the “Education Lottery” raised billions of dollars, the percentage actually went down.
How? Well, politicians played shell games.
Yes, they spent the lottery money on schools. But they took money they had previously spent on schools and started spending it on other things.
Admittedly, it was important things, like renovating the Legislature’s dining room, but it was other things, nonetheless.
Now, we may be doing the whole sick shell-game thing again … only this time with the environment.
Last fall, Florida voters approved Amendment 1 to demand that Florida spend more on the environment.
The amendment didn’t call for raising taxes one nickel. It was merely about prioritizing, forcing the state to set aside a tiny percentage of its massive budget for clean water, fresh air and preserved land. (Specifically, we’re talking a third of existing doc-stamp taxes on real-estate, which equals about 1 percent of the state’s $77 billion budget.)
It’s hard to overstate how overwhelming the support was. Amendment 1 passed with 75 percent. No statewide candidate got anything close to that.
But Legislators are once again playing shell games.
For instance, the House budget proposes spending $38 million of this money on existing payroll for the state’s park services and $40 million on existing forest service employees.
Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal included $17.5 million for a wastewater-treatment project in the Florida Keys.
The Senate has $10 million for salaries in the Environmental Protection division.
Were you able to keep your eye on the pea? Did you see the shells move?
Most of those endeavors aren’t new. None of them involve land preservation.
Environmental groups are crying foul. So are government watchdogs. The Florida Today newspaper in Melbourne took the rare step of running a front-page editorial last week demanding that lawmakers “Respect voters, Obey Constitution on Amendment 1.”
Many critics complain there isn’t enough money for Florida Forever land preservation — practically nothing ($8 million-$15 million) this year compared to the days when Jeb Bush was governor ($300 million).
I don’t think we should be buying land simply for buying’s sake. But I do think we need to honor the amendment.
That means protecting natural areas, restoring wetlands and cleaning up our water supplies. Fixing the Everglades, improving the Indian River Lagoon and providing recreational trails.
There is no shortage of worthy ways to spend money in a state where water is both polluted and scarce enough that we have restrictions.
The amendment’s title was clear: “Water and Land Conservation: Dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.”
And this time, those pushing it were smart. They included a provision that said this money can’t be “comingled” with the general funds the state had already been using.
That means if legislators play shell games with this money, there may be grounds to sue them.
It needn’t come to that.
Lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott are looking at a record budget. And they are free to spend 99 percent of it on education, roads, incentives, public safety, their own health-care plans — or whatever else they want.
They simply have to dedicate 1 percent to the environment.
It’s what voters wanted — and now what the constitution demands.
Scott Maxwell June 7, 2015 Orlando Sentinel firstname.lastname@example.org
I smell a lawsuit in relation to the use of the funds to be collected from the doc-stamp taxes on real-estate. The Florida legislators have proven to us numerous times they are not to be trusted and this reaches to Governor Scott’s office also.
The lies, deceit, manipulation and corruption have been on-going for far too many years. Time for them to have to answer to the people who not only pay their salaries, but put them in those seats in Tallahassee.