Either Rick Scott is seeing the writing on the wall or I’m having a stroke. He sent a letter to the Tampa Tribune today (11.27.11) declaring that he now understands how the health of Florida’s economy and that of its fragile ecology are “inextricably linked.”
|CEO-governor Rick Scott|
While I think the odds greatly favor the latter, just maybe the State CEO has had some sort of epiphany. Or could it be that, just maybe, he’s realizing that the environment has a constituency that’s not limited to just liberals and democrats (bless their hearts) and a lot of folks are beginning to get a lot more than just nervous about his ill-advised ways.
Or maybe he’s the one who’s had the stroke.
The letter was obviously written either by someone who knows what the state really needs and the governor agrees with it, or it was written by someone who knows what the state really needs and the governor signed it anyway.
Here are some his statements quoted from the letter:
· As governor, I understand a healthy economy is dependent upon a healthy environment.
· A stable regulatory environment does not mean lower environmental standards. It means that environmental policy will be governed by sound science, not politics or one-size-fits-all solutions.
· At the same time, willful violations of our environmental standards will not be tolerated. We will be just as vigilant about prosecuting bad actors as we are about helping businesses comply with the law.
· The state of Florida should maintain its rights to protect our environment, and it should be done at a reasonable cost to taxpayers. We are a national leader in addressing pollution in our state's water bodies and have the most extensive monitoring and assessment program in the country. We know more about our water bodies than any federal agency or other state and are in a unique position to craft a solution that recognizes and respects the needs of our diverse landscape. We will continue to work cooperatively with our federal partners as we develop a state-led effort to restore and protect our rivers, lakes and streams.
· Florida is committed to moving forward on important restoration projects like improving water quality in the Everglades.
· Over the last five decades the state has acquired more than 4.2 million acres, including some of Florida's most critical conservation properties. However, now is the time to evaluate our inventory and ask ourselves if we have the right land in the right places.
· Our state's natural resources are unparalleled. It's why people choose to live here, vacation here and bring their businesses here. In Florida, we don't have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. The two are inextricably linked, and as governor, I am working to ensure our resources are dedicated to the improvement of both.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Be not beguiled into rapture, however, because there were also hints of further potential mischief in the letter:
· That's why protecting our natural resources through a stable regulatory environment is key to ensuring businesses are successful and future generations will be able to enjoy all that our state has to offer.
What’s a stable regulatory environment? Anyone want to venture a thought?
· It also means that more of our dollars will be directed toward projects that actually benefit the environment instead of government bureaucracy, excessive salaries and benefits, and costly litigation.
Sounds good until he realizes that the engineers and scientists needed to achieve his goal of continued effective protection and preservation of Florida’s natural systems will have to be paid at a fair market rate. Has he checked the salaries of community college presidents, airport managers, sea port managers, expressway authority managers, city managers recently? And it isn’t exactly clear how “ …more of our dollars will be directed toward projects …” when he and Senate Budget Czar Alexander have eviscerated the budgets of the districts. Makes no sense.
· It means that our permit processes will be the same for Tampa residents and businesses as they are for those in Pensacola, Jacksonville or Key West, but also take into account our state's regional differences.
This has been a goal of DEP and the WMD’s for years. Good luck, Governor. The danger will be in creating a one-size-fits-all mandate that doesn’t, and the result will be the failure of the state’s regulatory system to reach the goals it is intended to reach, which, in turn, will lead to a disaster for the state’s future, environmentally and economically.
· As we do with other state agencies, we will expect accountability budgeting from our water management districts, which means justifying every dollar we spend and bringing spending in line with revenues.
He still doesn’t understand that WMD’s are not state agencies and cannot be considered such by him or the legislature lest they risk causing the districts loss of their constitutionally-granted ad valorem taxing authority. This is a bogeyman that’s going to bite him squarely you-know-where and only his and J. D. Alexander’s arrogance will be to blame.
Here’s the thing. Words are easy currency for the politician. It’s easy to say what people want to hear. I – and, I suspect, you – sincerely want to hear and believe that all is going to be okay in Florida. That its complex and fragile natural systems along with its economy will flourish under the guidance and wisdom of an enlightened leader in a position of major authority.
If However one can promise 700,000 jobs over and over again in order to get elected, proffering the conclusion that the state’s unemployment levels and thus its economy will improve, only to claim later that such a conclusion must be the result of delirium or unsavory political trickery of the liberal press, then why should we believe that we are now about to enter wonderland?
Rick Scott has been a resident in Florida only since 1997. His whole professional life has been buying and selling hospitals, and shutting them down. He was the CEO of a corporation that was fined over 2 billion for defrauding the United States Government. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:
On March 19, 1997, investigators from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services served search warrants at Columbia/HCA facilities in El Paso and on dozens of doctors with suspected ties to the company.
Following the raids, the Columbia/HCA board of directors forced Scott to resign as Chairman and CEO. He was paid $9.88 million in a settlement. He also left owning 10 million shares of stock worth over $350 million.
In 1999, Columbia/HCA changed its name back to HCA, Inc.
In settlements reached in 2000 and 2002, Columbia/HCA plead guilty to 14 felonies and agreed to a $600+ million fine in the largest fraud settlement in US history. Columbia/HCA admitted systematically overcharging the government by claiming marketing costs as reimbursable, by striking illegal deals with home care agencies, and by filing false data about use of hospital space. They also admitted fraudulently billing Medicare and other health programs by inflating the seriousness of diagnoses and to giving doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. They filed false cost reports, fraudulently billing Medicare for home health care workers, and paid kickbacks in the sale of home health agencies and to doctors to refer patients. In addition, they gave doctors "loans" never intending to be repaid, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.
In late 2002, HCA agreed to pay the U.S. government $631 million, plus interest, and pay $17.5 million to state Medicaid agencies, in addition to $250 million paid up to that point to resolve outstanding Medicare expense claims. In all, civil law suits cost HCA more than $2 billion to settle, by far the largest fraud settlement in US history.
So, his letter sounds hopeful. So what?