by Nick Stone of Drawnlines Politics.
You know how government budgets work.
When times are lean, costs are trimmed by a few percent here and there. Legislators sweat as they make supposedly tough decisions about where our scarce tax dollars are most desperately needed. Then when the economy picks up and tax revenues pour in again, every special interest in town wants a piece of the pie. Appropriators dole out money like crazy and spending soars to the heavens.
This budget reality is exactly what Senators Ellyn Bogdanoff and Mike Haridopolos fought as they courageously championed SJR 958, Florida’s Smart Cap. The bill recently passed the Florida Senate and now awaits passage in the Florida House.
Smart Cap is a Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The bill confines year over year spending increases to a basic, rational formula. It is a reminder to lawmakers that they are responsible to the people who pay the tab for government services.
Newspaper editorial boards can’t stand the idea of Smart Cap. The Sun-Sentinel says that the bill would be a disservice to Florida. The St. Pete Times calls the measure draconian. The Orlando Sentinel calls it a bill with no smarts. But their transparent, flimsy arguments reveal a bias against any bill championed by Republicans – especially a bill that controls the growth of government. Anyone right of center already knows a good rule of thumb: the more the editorial boards hate a proposal, the better it probably is for taxpayers.
Editorial boards also crow that the Smart Cap bill would ultimately take budgeting decisions out of the hands of legislators. What nonsense! Politifact says that the cap can be raised either by referendum or by the legislature. Moreover, individual appropriations will still be made exclusively by the legislature. If Florida needs more money for this or less money for that, elected officials will still make those decisions. But if big spenders want a huge year over year spending increase, they have to answer to the taxpayers for it. That’s what Smart Cap does.
Do we really need Smart Cap?
Before 2006, Florida saw explosive growth in government size and scope. As money poured in from a booming economy and a housing bubble, Florida’s budget soared to unprecedented extremes. In fact, Redstate blogger Matthew Falconer reminds readers that during this period, legislators nearly bumped up against the lavish spending limit already in place. Unfortunately, we are doomed to go down that same path as our economy recovers.
Republicans like Haridopolos and Bogdanoff are setting a responsible and forward-looking example with this urgent bill. It protects taxpayers from explosive growth of government on their tab, while at the same time accommodating population growth and cost of living. It is indeed a smart idea.
For Florida’s sake, Speaker Dean Cannon should expedite passage of this vital bill and send it to Governor Scott. There’s nothing draconian about controlling the size, scope, and cost of government. Floridians resoundingly said that’s what they wanted in the last election. Can Florida afford to enact Smart Cap? Actually, Florida can’t afford to let it fail.
This article is also available on the Broward GOP Insider.