Florida Governor Scott Increases Budget to Fight Cancer
By: William March
TAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott again chose Tampa to announce popular budget news Tuesday, holding an event at Moffitt Cancer Center to say he’s including $80 million in state anti-cancer funding, a $30 million increase, in his budget proposal for the coming year.
Most of the money, $60 million, would go to help other institutions attain the coveted National Cancer Institute designation as a comprehensive cancer center. Such centers are supported with federal grants because of the quality of research they perform, along with treatment of patients.
Moffitt is the only such center in the state and one of 41 in the nation.
The UF Health Cancer Center at the University of Florida and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami are the two most likely candidates to attain the designation, said Jamie Wilson, vice president for government relations at Moffitt.
Wilson said Moffitt will be eligible for some of the incentive money to help maintain its own designation. The money is to hire researchers and create lab facilities.
Asked whether the move could create competition for Moffitt, Wilson noted the state’s population is now double what it was in 1986 when Moffitt was founded.
“We have a need to treat more patients and find more cures,” he said. “We have colleagues in the fight against cancer, not competitors.”
The other $20 million will maintain the current level of direct state support for cancer research, said state Surgeon General John Armstrong, appearing with Scott.
State money is only a small part of Moffitt’s $800 million annual budget, but Moffitt lost some of that funding during the state government’s recession budget cuts, and now has gotten back most of what it lost, Wilson said.
Scott has previously come twice to Tampa, the heart of the state’s crucial political swing area, to talk about the $500 million in tax cuts he’s including in his budget proposal — most from cutting auto registration and license fees — while travelling the state to announce other popular initiatives.
In a stop at a Delray Beach elementary school Monday, he said he’ll ask state legislators to boost public education spending this fall by $542 million in what he calls his “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget.”
He’s also seeking $130 million for Everglades restoration, $37 million to for polluted springs restoration projects, and a $33 million reduction in corporate filing fees.
“Now we have a better budget; we can invest,” Scott said in Tampa on Tuesday, referring to projections that slowly recovering state revenues will provide a budget surplus this year.
One problem: Scott’s new spending and tax cutting proposals add up to more than that projected surplus.
Asked by reporters Tuesday where he proposes to cut to make up the difference, Scott didn’t answer, instead repeating his talking points about the budget.
“Oh gosh. We have — as you know our economy’s turned around,” he said in response to the question. “We are going to reduce taxes by $500 million. But we’re going to make smart investments like (cancer research funding). … It’s because people are moving to our state, getting jobs, but we also need to make sure we do things like this.”
When a reporter repeated the question, he responded, “We are watching how we spend your money, ‘cause it’s your money. But look, our budget’s tied to sales tax growth and property taxes. Guess what’s happening. Properties are going up in value, people are moving to our state, tourists are coming to our state. … We’ll end up with a budget surplus after this.”
On Tuesday, Scott’s press office sent out a list of quotes from about a dozen Republican legislators praising Scott for his latest tax cut proposal — decreasing the sales tax on commercial leases. The Republicans said that would give businesses more money, and they would in turn create jobs and hire people.
Democrats, on the other hand, say Scott is having an election-year conversion to environmental and education spending, slashed in his first two years as governor, while pleasing his business-oriented base.
“Rick Scott’s budget is a textbook case of election-year pandering,” said state party spokesman Josh Karp.