One of my all-time heroes is Winston Churchill. He’s widely credited with having said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
In the digital age, this phenomenon, which once took days or weeks, now takes mere hours or minutes.
To know this is true we only need to look at the hyperbole and hysterics coming from the special interests and their allies in the news media surrounding the passage of the Florida legislative budget. If you can believe it, one newspaper even argued that Gov. Scott should veto the budget because it offered kids in failing schools hope, and because voters shouldn’t be able to choose another $25,000 homestead exemption on their property taxes.
I wish I were joking, but I’m not.
But rather than indulge in the same scare tactics employed by some opponents, I’d like to just tell you exactly what the budget does and doesn’t do. None of what I’m about to tell you is half true or somewhat true — it’s all completely true.
First, this budget was subject to the most open, transparent, and transformational budget rules in history. No more secret projects at the last minute, no more stuffing university budgets with pork, and no more tricks to hide future spending. And contrary to media hysterics, virtually every bill included in the budget negotiations was introduced, vetted, debated, and even voted on in committee for weeks or months prior to the budget.
Second, this budget refuses to mortgage our children’s future. This year we were faced with billion-dollar-plus shortfalls in the next two years. Due to our fiscal responsibility, we turned those billion-dollar budget shortfalls into billion-dollar-plus surpluses. We also set aside another $3.2 billion in reserves, and we did it all without raising taxes.
Third, not only did we protect the future without raising taxes, we actually cut taxes. We added another $25,000 homestead exemption on the ballot in 2018, and we saved homeowners over $500 million in property tax increases that some in Tallahassee wanted to use to pay for more pork.
Fourth, this budget puts a record amount of money — $24 billion — into K-12 education. In addition, all highly effective teachers will get a $1,200 bonus and effective teachers will get an $800 bonus. And the very best and brightest teachers will get a $6,000 bonus. And yes, children in the 115 failure-factory schools will get the opportunity to attend a new school, in the same neighborhood, with a proven track record of giving kids a hope and a future.
Fifth, this budget eliminated hundreds of millions of dollars in member pork-barrel spending, and I personally encourage the governor to go forth and veto additional pork projects he feels waste taxpayer money.
Sixth, this budget rightsizes VISIT Florida to $25 million and places strict accountability requirements on an agency that threw away tens of millions of your taxpayer dollars and even contracted to advertise to visitors in Syria. Yes, you read that right: Syria. This budget also eliminates corporate welfare and bureaucrats unfairly picking winners and losers. No more Enterprise Florida board members, who pay $50,000 for those seats, handing out your money to their friends or multibillion-dollar corporations getting taxpayer handouts to compete with your local businesses.
This year’s budget does this and so much more. From funding to clear out the backlog of sexual assault testing kits to fully funding the KidCare program, to making feminine hygiene products tax exempt, this budget is tough on waste, generous to our kids, and prioritizes real people.
For some, however, this wasn’t enough. It is this exact same logic and thinking that has put this country $20 trillion in debt and enriched insider elites at the expense of the hardworking, play-by-the-rules majority of we the people.
Well, we have news for them: Not anymore. Not with your money. And not on my watch.
Richard Corcoran is Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.