State Sen. Wilton Simpson is proud of what the Florida Legislature accomplished during its recently completed 2016 Session. However, he says the public wouldn’t be aware of that if they relied solely on the news media during the past two months.
The GOP legislator spoke to about 40 (mostly senior) citizens at a town hall meeting held at the Beacon Woods Civic Center in Hudson on Tuesday. The lawmaker, appearing on the same bill with Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, brought a data sheet of the legislative items he wanted tell his Senate District 18 constituents about.
Simpson boasted about the Legislature cutting a billion dollars worth of taxes over the past two years, and disputed the notion that those cuts will only go to the wealthy. “You’ll hear a lot of rhetoric that only fat cats get these tax cuts,” he said, when in fact $400 million was reduced on car registration fees in 2015.
Simpson seemed conflicted about the record amount of education the Legislature expended this past year.
“We are spending more money today on education than ever spent on history per pupil than we ever have in the state of Florida,” he said. “That’s not always something to be proud of, right?”
Envisioning how a campaign commercial could look at that critically, he said the public might be told that the Legislature didn’t do that, because it comes on the backs of property owners. He followed that up by saying that the Legislature had spent $428 million on reducing property taxes to pay for education spending.
He boasted about the state’s creditworthiness, saying, “Florida is a triple-A credit rated state. You’ll never hear that in the press.”
Later, the senator discussed legislation that will foster more manufacturing jobs, specifically mentioning the investment in ports and eliminating sales tax on manufacturing equipment. “Maybe five to 10 years from now, Florida will be a major import-export state and manufacturing state,” he said. Those manufacturing jobs are multipliers, he said, adding more people to the economy.
Winding down, he once again said: “Those are the things that you won’t hear. You’ll hear that we can’t draw a map. We can’t do these things that are a lot of times silly or nonsense, in a lot of cases.”
His comment was about the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling last summer that the Legislature violated the state constitution in 2012 by gerrymandering eight of the state’s 27 congressional districts. A parallel lawsuit about the redistricting of all 40 Senate districts led to the body submitting a new map to a judge. It ultimately was rejected in favor of one submitted by the plaintiffs.
“We have a Supreme Court who is sympathetic to the people who filed a lawsuit. That’s why we couldn’t draw a map,” he said.