Mike: Legislative sessions usually get as much attention as PBS documentaries. But that was before Rick Scott became the skinniest 800-pound gorilla ever to hit Tallahassee. We've never seen anything like this. No allegiances. No loyalties. No friends. Just victims. I love this guy.
Scott: So would Hannibal Lecter … though I think the cannibalistic doc was a lot more precise with his cuts. It will be interesting to see whether any of Scott's GOP peers have the courage to stick up for the disabled, the poor and the publicly educated — all of whom Scott wants to de-fund so he can increase his own office's budget.
Mike: He needs a larger staff after disbanding the Legislature and Cabinet. The Florida Supreme Court saved itself by ruling in his favor on high-speed rail. Next to go will be SunRail. In bygone days, you wouldn't kill the pet project of the speaker of the House, but Scott is going to do it. And then he's going to put his foot on the corpse, beat his chest and yell like Tarzan.
Scott: I think it's funny you're even talking about silly things like mass transit. That's soooo P.T.P. (Pre-Tea Party.) Why build rail when you can just wait for the next governor to add 63 lanes to Interstate 4? Still, there's an outside chance SunRail survives if Dean Cannon and Co. have spines. High-speed rail's a goner, though … and I'm not sure I'm weeping that loss.
Mike: Spine? Scott will rip out Cannon's spine and show it to him. Now, let's move on to this bill that would imprison doctors for five years for asking if you own guns. Only prison? I say plug the little white-coat varmints on the spot. The NRA is getting soft. This should fall under a "stand your ground'' offense.
Scott: You have to have bullets for brains to wish for this kind of nonsensical, Big Government extremism. They claim they don't want government regulating their health care. But they want government regulating discussions between me and my privately chosen doctor, with $5 million fines? Right now, the medical procedure I want is to get Rep. Jason Brodeur's nose surgically removed from my personal business.
Mike: Well, if it's an elective procedure, I'm not sure even his taxpayer-financed health-care package would cover it. Medicaid certainly would not. This is where the real pain will be felt in this budget. Imagine losing your AIDS medications or dialysis treatment. The death panels are in the house. I shudder to think of what will happen to Medicaid nursing-home patients, most elderly women with dementia. They will be the silent screams from the warehouses. We need a death-with-dignity law. Seriously.
Scott: The biggest problem is that Rick Scott is obsessed only with cuts. He promised us he'd be a savvy businessman, right? Well, smart executives know financial equations involve two sides — spending and revenue. And Scott is completely ignoring revenue — even though Florida has billions of dollars in uncollected taxes and breaks for special interests and out-of-state retailers. Before he cuts programs for the disabled, he should repeal the special breaks for high-end yachts.
Mike: Not happening. At best there will be no tax cuts. But there will be one benefit. Private enterprise is producing as much now as it did in 2007 with something like 7 million fewer employees. We have become ruthlessly efficient, which will position us for a more competitive future. Government needs to go through the same process. Scott is absolutely right on this. The question becomes balancing efficiency with compassion and quality of life.
Scott: Mike, this is where you and the governor let talking points get in the way of facts. Florida ranks dead-last in America when it comes to spending on public employees. And for the most part, we pay them less than other states, too. That's not me talking. That's the Republican House analysis. I know it's convenient to demonize these low- and middle-wage workers as the enemy of the people, but it defies reality.
Mike: And you're letting rhetoric get in the way of my position. I'm not demonizing anyone. I'm talking about running the business of government more like a business and putting benefits in line with those in the private sector. Pension funds are a budgetary time bomb waiting to explode. Ask Orlando, which replaced its defined benefits pension plan with something like a 401(k) plan for most new workers. Tallahassee can do likewise. Firefighters retire in their 40s and make a lot more in pension payments than they ever did on the job. That's ridiculous.
Scott: Firefighters constitute a small fraction of public employees. My concerns rest with the vast majority of hard-working civil servants in Florida whose salaries average $35,000. Hardly extravagant. Our financial shortcomings are the result of letting special interests skip out on taxes the rest of us pay. But, hey, we agree on other things — like reforming Citizens Property Insurance.
Mike: Folks in Orlando are getting sick of subsidizing hurricane insurance for Donald Trump's mansion on Palm Beach. Rick Scott wants to end insurance subsidies, and more power to him. But watch all the Republican legislators from South Florida scream when their constituents are faced with premiums that could double. Watch them demand their government money.
Scott: Amen. It's only pork when it benefits someone else. Speaking of which, we also agree on Senate President Mike Haridopolos. He lectures others about wasteful spending after sucking up $152,000 in tax money to write the "Go, Dog, Go" version of a college textbook.
Mike: Somehow, being a welfare cheat is acceptable if you are a white male Republican senate president. Has this guy ever collected a paycheck that didn't come from taxpayers? He says: "We can't afford the government.'' But we can fire four teachers and use their salaries to pay him for a book that, among other things, recommends political candidates get a cell phone and website. Well, bust me buttons! Who would have guessed? This was a payoff from Brevard Community College to buy influence.
Scott: Ha! The joke's on them. Higher education's getting cut just like everything else. The University of Florida already has talked about jacking up tuition another 30 percent to compensate for the governor's proposed cuts. Take that, higher education!
Mike: As long as UF doesn't jack up the price of football tickets. The budget beat-down is bad enough when you cut a few billion dollars. I don't know where you come up with another $4 billion over two years to cover the tax cuts Scott wants. If those pass, Haridopolos might be left living off his book royalties.
Scott: He'd starve.