Thursday, September 22, 2005

Government by The People in Florida?

Here we go again. In 2002, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment by referendum mandating the building of a light-rail transportation system to connect the state's five largest cities. For the next two years, Bush and the Republican legislature declined to fund the project, until in 2004 a committee of Jeb's close friends floated a ballot measure to repeal the earlier one, and spent millions to promote it. It passed (the ignorance of Florida voters will be discussed later).

Also in that 2002 election, voters passed an initiative demanding that Florida reduce the size of classes in the public schools to the national average. Before the vote, Jeb Bush was actually caught, on tape, telling a meeting of Republican boosters, "I have some devious plans to deal with this [class-size amendment] if it passes." For the first time (three years later), the state board of education requested the funds to comply with this constitutional amendment. The price tag: $1.9 billion.

So how do you think the Republicans reacted? The first line from a September 21, 2005 Orlando Sentinel article says it all: "Florida's governor and top lawmakers, confronted with a nearly $2 billion price tag for new classrooms, vowed Tuesday to push voters to reconsider their expensive demand for smaller public school classes."

Just who the hell works for whom? When voters say they want something, isn't a governor bound by the will of the people? Apparently not.

Add to that this scare tactic from Senate President Tom Lee, who immediately released a statement to the effect that this could only be paid for through "program cuts or massive debt." He failed to mention that it could also be paid for by tax increases.

And there's the real heart of the matter. Republicans will not raise taxes for any reason. Why? Because taxes are bad for business. So the truth is that the government in Florida cannot afford to reduce class sizes because big corporations need their tax breaks. And to Bush, these tax breaks are more sacred than education and public transportation, and worst of all, more sacred than government by The People for The People.


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