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Medicaid Expansion, Amendment 1, All Aboard Florida Foes had Rough 2015

January 5, 2016 - 3:45pm

Welcome to The Dean’s List — an Ed Dean-style look at which Florida’s political leaders and issues who didn’t make the grade in 2015. What you see here is strictly my opinion, not necessarily the editor’s or the rest of the staff at Sunshine State News.


Medicaid Expansion Backers. Despite opposing most of Obamacare, most Republicans in the  the Florida Senate backed its Medicaid expansion provision last year. While Medicaid expansion supporters wanted money from the federal government, they weren’t able to answer what Florida would do if the federal government didn’t pay its portion of Medicaid expansion down the road. Nobody could agree on how many jobs would be created and Gov. Rick Scott showed no appetite for it. Despite that, the Senate went ahead to back it, leading to the House rejecting it and a special session as the two sides jockeyed for position on the budget. The issue seems dead for the short term, at least after a messy 2015.

Amendment 1 Supporters. In 2014, Amendment 1 was sold to voters as a proposal that would focus on state land acquisition to protect Florida’s environment and preserve water quality. But the weak spots of Amendment 1 were exposed last year. Amendment 1 proponents insisted it would not raise taxes. Amendment 1 ended up shifting much of the burden from state to local governments.  While the vagueness of Amendment 1 helped it win big at the ballot box in 2014, that came back to hurt it last year. Take Senate Bill 7054, a proposal that would designate around $50 million annually for SunTrail, a proposed statewide network of “off-road paved trails.” Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, expected half of the funds for that proposal to be pulled from dollars set aside under Amendment 1. That’s not what voters thought they were backing in 2014, but Amendment 1 had too many loopholes and that came back to hurt in in 2015.

Opponents of All Aboard Florida. Last year, opponents of All Aboard Florida like Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE)  and Citizens Against the Train (CATT) thought they had enough support to stop All Aboard Florida (AAF) and “derail” the high speed rail project. But if anybody “went off track,” it was CARE and CATT, not AAF. Opponents of AAF were too unfocused in their arguments, offering scattershot points on funding, safety and property values. Some of their arguments blew up in their face and taxpayer-funded lawsuits in Indian River and Martin counties ended up costing taxpayers more than $4.3 million, as AAF prevailed. 

Minimum Wage Hike. State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, and groups like the Fight for 15 want Florida’s minimum wage to almost double, up to $15 an hour in just a year. Political stunts like the “Minimum Wage Challenge” where Democratic politicians wanted to show how tough it is to live on Florida's minimum wage garnered little traction outside their supporters. They also did nothing to show how a minimum wage increase would hurt small businesses. Florida voters might be open to a minimum wage increase, even if the Legislature isn’t, but calling for a quick $15 minimum wage wasn’t the best card to play. 

Local Tax Raises. In 2015, many local governments saw more revenue due to a jump in property values. Several municipalities didn’t raise taxes but others did. Orlando saw a 9 percent increase of property values, but Mayor Buddy Dyer still wanted to raise property taxes by 17 percent. Palm Beach County saw $50 million in additional revenue due  to higher property values but politicians still wanted to raise the sales tax. Santa Rosa County saw property values go up by almost 10 percent and the county commission voted to raise the gasoline tax from 6 cents to 12 cents.While Brevard County bragged about “holding the line” on not raising property taxes, Commissioners Jim Barfield and Robin Fisher tried to push a 6-cent gasoline tax increase after the budget was passed. These tax increases will come back to haunt local communities, especially if there’s an economic downturn.

(Issues that MADE the 2015 list appeared in Monday's  Sunshine State News. Click here.)

Ed Dean, a senior editor with Sunshine State News whose talk show can be heard on radio stations in Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Daytona Beach, Orlando, the Space Coast, the Treasure Coast and South Florida from West Palm Beach to Miami. It can also be heard in parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. You can reach him at Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio.


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