Henderson: Scott gets it right with tuition veto Rick Scott went to Tallahassee vowing to shake things up, and his record on the budget shows he has done just that, writes columnist Joe Henderson.
It made a dandy headline when Gov. Rick Scott vetoed almost $400 million Monday from the state’s new budget. Protecting the state’s economic recovery by red-lining some pet projects is good politics. It also has the advantage of being good governance. Sometimes, a governor’s most popular word is “no” and Scott has shown during his time in Tallahassee that he will turn thumbs down from time to time. He did it again with a $50 million coast-to-coast bike trail from Titusville to St. Petersburg, and I can’t really complain about that. That trail would have been nice, but there are probably ways to get that done that don’t hand such a large bill to John and Jane Q. Taxpayer. I especially liked his veto of the 3 percent tuition increase for the state’s colleges and universities, even though it had the backing of House Speaker Will Weatherford. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, it’s not uncommon for graduates to emerge thousands of dollars in debt while competing with other graduates for entry-level jobs.Making it more expensive to go to school just now was not a good idea, even if there are questions about the legality of his move. There is some thought that the Legislature could even sue to get its way. That would be interesting. Let’s keep a little perspective before we start calling him Gov. Slash though. The cuts amount to about half of one percent of the state’s $74 billion budget. That’s the equivalent of a 200-pound guy losing about eight ounces and calling it a diet. Still, the state’s economy is in better shape than when the governor found it. There is real job growth at long last, and revenue is up. Even with the vetoes, this is the largest budget in state history. As always in Tallahassee though, there is the game within the game. Scott not only went against Weatherford’s wishes on tuition increases, he cut a $14 million technology and science building at Gulf State College that was on the wish list of Senate President Don Gaetz. That’s an interesting way to build powerful allies. Then there’s this: For about the last year Scott has taken stances that sometimes seem downright liberal, at least by Florida standards. He pushed for expansion of Medicaid, for instance (the Republican Legislature said no way). After taking a hatchet to the state’s education budget his first year in office, the governor has been steadily restoring money there. This budget includes $480 million for teacher pay raises – something long overdue, in my humble opinion. It’s all designed to shore up his standing with public school educators, but it’s a gamble. Those who don’t like him have probably already made up their mind. Those who thought they liked him may wonder exactly what the governor is up to. I will give Scott credit for one thing. When he went to Tallahassee in 2010, he campaigned as an outsider who wanted to shake things up. He has stayed true to that promise. Things are definitely shaken around the state capitol. Soon enough we’ll see if the voters were stirred. www.facebook.com/JoeHendersonTrib
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