Smaller state government threatens Florida’s most needy 

Department of Children and Families and the unemployed suffer under conservative belt-tightening

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State of shock

OK, so we’re all well aware of the current tendency of conservative leaders to scream about “big gub’ment” and “sucking at the teat” and “pensions” and “bootstraps,” so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to realize that Florida – which always seems to rest near the bottom of the “How ya doin’?” lists of social welfare – is falling apart at the moment. Oh, boo, sorry to be a naysayer. But it’s true!

According a recent report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, the gains that the Republican legislature and governor like to claim as a veritable bounty – because of huge cuts to government jobs and spending – might actually be ruining the parts of the state where government is required to make things work. We already know about where we stand on school funding and environmental woes and the panoply of other things we expect from our state government: at the bottom of the list. And this we are expected to accept in the name of progress.

But this new study points out that Florida now has half of the national average of state workers per citizen – 111 per 10,000 in 2012 – while its population has grown by four million since 1998, the budget has soared by $25 million since 2000 and Gov. Rick Scott has cut the state-employed workforce by 9.6 percent since taking office. Awesome, right? Not really.

The Department of Children and Families has taken a publicized beating for literally losing numerous children in this period (477 children didn’t have to die between 2008 and 2013, the Miami Herald reports), but if you lose nearly 50 percent of your staff, cracks will appear and be fallen through. The Department of Environmental Protection similarly has been pretending to do an effective job of enforcement after losing nearly 500 employees in the last 15 years. And, even with all of the noisemaking about the Obamacare website not working last year, Florida’s unemployment website, CONNECT, caused even worse damage. A backlog of people in need of services that are legally paid for by employers was left out, forcing the state to hire an additional 250 people to handle the fracas. No more phone calls for help, just $63 million in a website devoted to people who didn’t have jobs (or, likely, computers).

Smaller isn’t usually better.


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