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To Veto or Not to Veto?

May 14, 2014 - 6:00pm

Within the next few weeks, the Legislature will officially deliver the fiscal 2014-15 budget to Gov. Rick Scott for his perusal and ultimate approval.

Every governor has the privilege to veto any item in the state budget and many of them have used budget vetoes to make policy statements and deliver messages to the Legislature regardless of whether the governor and Legislature are of the same party.

Interestingly, there have already been a few stories written by the mainstream media, with many, many more to come, calling for the governor to use his veto pen and wipe out member and local projects inserted in the budget. In doing so, the media are clearly trying to put the governor in a box in which he cant win no matter what action he takes.

Remember that these are the same media people who don't like the governor to begin with. Any good idea he has is going to be slammed because they are determined to make this governor look bad -- damn the facts.

For example, college costs represent a significant hurdle for all but the wealthiest families in our society. So, when Gov. Scott advocated over a year ago that he wanted Florida colleges to offer a $10,000 degree, you would have thought that the media, allegedly the champion of the underdog and the downtrodden, would have rejoiced in lowering the cost for post-secondary education.

Well, the howls started before the ink was dry on the announcing press release. He was accused of Wal-Martizing higher ed, even though Wal-Mart is the most successful retail company in the world! Trust me: Had a Democratic governor proposed the same idea, or even a Democratic legislator, they would have been credited with the best idea since stimulus spending or shovel-ready projects.

A number of state colleges have since come forward to deliver on this great idea that will give more Floridians the chance to succeed, but youll never hear from the media what a terrific idea this really was.

Truly, no good deed goes undone when this governor announces a new idea to help common folk survive in this tough economy.

So, the media are skillfully constructing a budget veto paradox for this governor, in that he loses regardless of whether he vetoes a lot of projects.

Some editors and reporters will be egging him on to cut the fat (read, member/local projects) out of the budget because not enough money was spent on their favorite issue, like education or human services.

Forget for a moment that the governor and the Legislature put away a billion dollars plus into the state's "rainy day fund" so that if the economy goes south again, the state will have a budget cushion.

Forget that this governor has been laser-focused on paying down Florida's debt to the tune of billions of dollars and that our credit rating is among the best in the nation.

Forget that education, both pre-K-12 and post-secondary, enjoyed a record allocation of money per student in this years budget. The media will simply lament that this was after draconian cuts in the recession years. Mind you, almost every single state in the union cut education dramatically and Florida was no different, but that wont satisfy the naysayers.

The fact that this governor insisted that taxpayers were going to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in lower tag fees will be dismissed as simply election-year pandering.

Yet, if a Democratic governor had done so, the media would commend him for returning tax dollars so that families will have a little bit more spending money.

On the other hand, if Gov. Scott does cut some, or even all, of these projects from the budget, he will simply be criticized as mean-spirited, which is how he is often portrayed anyway.

And theyll write stories about the hometown project that wont be funded because our multimillionaire governor was more interested in tax cuts for business.

Its a no-win scenario. If hes fiscally responsible, hes being stingy. If he doesnt veto a lot of projects, hes playing politics to garner votes as if this is something unique to only this governor.

Our governor has been consistent in his actions over the last three-and-a-half years. He has been adamant about adding jobs so Floridians can get back to work and cut extraneous government spending to help keep the cost of living reasonable -- so that families can have a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Whatever he does on budget vetoes, just remember that the media will have the last say, and regardless of what he does, they will surely find a way to roundly criticize him.

Barney Bishop III, one of the most familiar faces within the state business community, is CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting LLC in Tallahassee, and president and CEO of The Florida Smart Justice Alliance.

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