Yesterday marked a historic day in California as Jerry Brown took the reins as California's governor, 30 years after his first time at the helm. Although his plans for the state haven't been unveiled yet, he gave hints in his inaugural speech. It looks like he will take an approach of cutting where possible and extending sales, income and vehicle tax increases in effect already. It won't be pretty, but it's a start toward keeping California above water.
Brown is known for setting an example of thrift. His entire inaugural cost $100,000. Contrast that with Rick Scott's inaugural in Florida -- a two-day extravaganza expected to cost $2.5 million. But fear not, Florida, because Scott has many high-powered donors kicking in $25,000 apiece. Everyone from insurance companies to lawyers to growers and nursing homes has ponied up for the big party, which began Monday and finishes up on Tuesday.
But for Scott, the real party begins when he starts slashing everything from Medicaid to property taxes. From a recent interview with the Herald-Tribune, some classic Scott-isms:
Q: "What, in a general sense, do you plan to tell Floridians at your swearing-in?"
A: "I'm going to talk about that I'm going to be the jobs governor. I'm going to focus on what I talked about in the campaign, 700,000 jobs, turning the economy around. I'm going to talk about education, making sure we have the best educated work force, talk about regulation reform, getting rid of the regulations that don't make sense and streamlining government. And really the focus there ... is probably we will do what we said during the campaign, do accountability budgeting, go through all the agencies, really have measurement, whether we are accomplishing something or not and make sure everybody knows what we are doing. The taxpayers ought to know what we are doing."
Lest we ever forget, Rick Scott is the guy who somehow didn't know anything about Columbia/HCA's fraudulent Medicare activity. Accountability, my ass.
Q: "I did want to ask you about your plans regarding the Florida Retirement System and the pension plan. You called it a ticking fiscal time bomb."
A: "Here's the way I look at it. I represent the taxpayers of the state of Florida and I want to make sure those who are relying on the pension plan have something that they can rely on. ... What I'm looking at is, one, you should understand exactly what our commitment is now. Two, what's realistic as far as the monies that we have and the returns we can get. And then one thing I have talked about is that I believe the employees who participate in the pension plan should contribute. They do in every other state except this one. But that what's I'm thinking about. I will have a specific proposal on the pension plan by Feb. 4. The people who are relying on it I want to them to know that there's a pension plan there that will able to pay them.
As recently as 2000, the Florida pension system had a surplus. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist's management combined with the overall downturn due to the recession has caused it to run a shortfall climbing into the billions. But no worries, Gollum is on the job.
The next thing he's gonna do? Cut property taxes by 19% and eliminate all state corporate taxes over a seven year period.
Worse yet, Florida public schools will find themselves forced out of existence if Scott has his way on school vouchers.
Scott, who during his campaign also laid out an ambitious plan to expand the use of private school vouchers, has not decided whether he will push to pass a constitutional amendment before going ahead with that expansion.
Scott's own transition team has recommended giving public school parents so-called "education savings accounts" that would give them money to send their children to private schools. But the state Supreme Court has previously ruled one voucher program set up by Bush unconstitutional. Bush tried to get an amendment through the Florida Legislature but his effort foundered in the state Senate.
To all of this, Rick Scott grins and says:
"It's not daunting. It's going to be fun. It's going to be exciting," Scott said.
Yeah, fun and exciting. Sort of like that feeling in the pit of your stomach when the monster in the horror movie won't die.
Meanwhile, Jerry Brown will be quietly moving proposals forward for taxpayers to approve tax increases in California and budget cuts in the legislature. California will move ahead with establishing insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, and the state's problems will be tackled, one at a time, methodically. It won't be "fun", but I'm betting it'll be effective.
My advice to Florida taxpayers? Keep your eyes on Scott's hands at all times, because while he's entertaining you with flamboyant bullsh*t, he's going to be stealing you blind. Bet on it.
Update: Joy-Ann Reid has the story on Scott's first five executive orders, suspending regulations in Florida. Gollum is governor; be afraid.