“I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” is sadly not a phrase that inspires confidence. In fact, since the people of Florida’s 18th state Senate district elected me to serve them, I’ve jokingly used Ronald Reagan’s line at town halls and small business tours to get people smiling.
I’d like to think they’re smiling because they know me well enough to understand that as a husband, father, farmer and business owner, I’ve had my share of frustrations with governmental agencies, and so my goal really is to help simplify things.
Given the recent circumstances in Washington, I took some time to reflect on the importance of some basic questions: What do Americans think when they hear the word “government?” Is “government” helping us with economic recovery or is it interfering?
Right now, we are seeing a total breakdown in the ability of Washington to run the federal government. And although Florida’s state government can use its share of reform, too, I’m working every day to make it more efficient and responsive to the working people I represent.
Through it all, the men and women I serve with know that we must work together for a common purpose. The fact is, in Florida, we balance the state’s budget each year. We have lowered the costs that small business owners and job creators face, so they can get people working again.
Although our focus has been primarily on job creation, economic recovery and funding a quality education system, we don’t have tunnel vision. My fellow legislators also recognize that Florida’s long-term economic health depends on a healthy balance sheet, so we worked to decrease Florida’s debt by billions, thereby lowering the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on interest payments to state creditors, and improving Florida’s economic outlook.
Republicans and Democrats in Tallahassee both want to see a stronger economy, but job creation and economic growth are not the only issues where we put differences aside for the common good of Floridians.
One in three Floridians’ water supply is directly affected by what happens in the Everglades. State leaders put politics aside and negotiated with the federal government to stop wasting time and money fighting in courtrooms and instead direct those resources to ecosystem restoration. This agreement resulted in a new plan that farmers, environmentalists and policymakers have all celebrated.
The bill I sponsored in the Senate will make certain Florida statutes conform to this new restoration plan and provides $32 million in funding each year to ensure that restoration is completed. Most importantly, the bill passed both the Florida House and the Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support.
These are accomplishments that all Floridians can be proud of. But, unfortunately, none of them can undo the burdens and challenges that Washington’s dysfunction places on many of our friends and neighbors.
Perhaps, then, Florida can serve as an example that Washington can learn from. When it comes to things that are of vital importance to everyone, Washington should follow Florida’s lead by putting differences aside and working to find a solution that works for as many people as possible.
Simply put, let us hope that Washington finally figures out what Florida has known for years: work together when you can, know that real people depend on you, and pay your bills. And do it without adding unnecessary burdens on future generations.