Monday, May 12, 2008

Does a Responsible Politician Even Exist?

As fresh-faced as I am to the world of politics, my faith in both the U.S. political system & American voters has been utterly decimated... time & time again.

On January 29, 2008, Floridians voted on Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment focusing mainly on cutting state property taxes. This coincided with Florida's presidential primary (the primary where the Democratic National Committee striped our delegates because our state voted out of turn). Amendment 1 passed 64.4% in favor and 35.6% opposed.

I was against this amendment. Deeply, emotionally against it.

I, like everyone else, would love to pay less money to taxes. I know the condition of the real estate market is causing significant troubles, & what family doesn't need that extra little bit of money in their pocket? Under more careful consideration, however, it was clear the negative effects would outweigh the benefits. I am a teacher at heart & I knew back in January what was going to happen...

Florida's revenue comes almost exclusively from tourism/sales taxes & property taxes. Those taxes largely fund statewide services such as schools, libraries, police/fire/emergency services, road care, child care, health care, etc.

Can we look at this rationally for a second?

We're cutting property taxes, a major source of funding for our state's basic functioning. We are also not expecting huge tourism in the near future (notice the cost of gas recently?). What does this leave us with? A government without enough funding to provide many basic needs for it's citizens.

Case in point... although leading up to the primary election, it was *promised* that Amendment 1 WOULD NOT affect education funds. The Superintendent of DCPS just released the following:

To parents, students, teachers, principals, staff and citizens of Duval County:

As we approach the end of the school year, I would like to take a moment to thank each of you for your hard work and dedication to your students’ education and to Duval County Public Schools.

We are going to be entering the next school year with a budget shortfall of nearly $70 million due to the sales tax revenue shortfall, Amendment 1 and fixed cost increases. However, we are doing everything we can to make sure that the impact to our students is minimal.

Although the Legislature allowed us flexibility in using capital money for operating, the $70 million shortfall to next year’s budget could potentially cause a reduction in salary and benefits for teachers and administrative staff, reduction in programs and the cutback of employees.

Unfortunately the state did not provide us with the sufficient funds to effectively run a large urban school district. Florida was ranked at the bottom of a 2006 census bureau report on public education finances, and there is no reason to believe that we are not there now.

District officials will remain steadfast in our dedication to providing quality education to all of our students, and we will continue to ensure that Duval County students receive all of the proper tools and training they need to succeed.

Thanks again for all that you do, and for your continued support of Duval County Public Schools.

Ed Pratt-Dannals

Let your voice be heard, contact the Duval Legislative Delegation.

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