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Senator Nan Rich, Sun Sentinel: State GOP economic record abysmal

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Earlier this year, as Florida's number of unemployed continued to soar above the national average and Tallahassee Republicans maintained a deaf ear to their plight, one GOP lawmaker rose above the conservative rhetoric, castigating her party members for deference to dogma over responsibility.

"I came up here to get people jobs," said state Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, during debate on a bill forcing women to get and pay for an ultrasound prior to an abortion. "I came up here to protect people from the kinds of safety issues that fire and police take care of. I came up here to protect education."

The ultrasound bill was one of 18 such measures filed by the Republican majority this past year. They were accompanied by such conservative red meat priorities as cutting jobless benefits and $4 billion in funding to everything from public education to Medicaid reimbursement rates. They did, however, strengthen gun rights.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, his catchy campaign slogan of "Let's get to work" still echoing, set about killing a federal high speed rail project and the tens of thousands of jobs it promised, freezing critical transportation and infrastructure projects, and slashing education funds by a whopping 10 percent. But he eagerly broke out his pen to sign into law a majority of these right wing priorities.

Unfortunately, as another Republican wryly commented, not a one of them created a single job.

Fast forward five months and as another legislative session readies to begin, the Republican right-wing is busily front-loading their agenda. And here we go again with laws tightening the regulation of women and their bodies and further expanding school vouchers. The governor, too, has his peculiar "Rick Scott Knows Best" wish list, everything from dictating which college degrees are worth obtaining to delivering more of our dwindling tax dollars to Wall Street's biggest, cash-rich corporations.

The only economic stimulus bill filed by Republicans so far? Eliminating the decades-old ban on dwarf tossing. According to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Ritch Workman, a Republican from Melbourne, the cure to our ailing economy is allowing bar patrons to resume throwing dwarves as Saturday night entertainment. He claims the ban prevents them from getting jobs, and it's Big Brother government at its worst.

Sadly, this same argument has driven the Republican economic agenda in Florida for more than a decade. Their policies have hijacked the taxes we paid for educating our children, caring for our elders, and protecting our communities into the hands of their corporate campaign supporters, and the middle class has suffered. We're at the top of the national heap for foreclosures, followed closely by unemployment, and the best they can offer for stimulating employment is open season on dwarves?

Unfortunately, stripping other safety nets such as decent wages and guaranteed pensions from middle class Floridians has largely occurred under similar bait and switch maneuvers. And it was done under their 14-year watch.

To hear Republicans tell it, if it weren't for the heavy hand of government, business and job creation would flourish. There would be no need to cut your services, hike your child's tuition, or increase your driver's license and registration fees, all of which they've done.

They forget that Florida already has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the country, that the regulations they want to scrap are tailored for Wall Street players, not the local mom and pop businesses, and that they've been following the same retreaded economic play book with devastating results for more than a decade.

The same Tallahassee Republicans berating Washington for Florida's battered finances would do well to examine their own track record. If government has been the problem, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Senator Nan Rich is the leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus for the 2010-2012 legislative sessions. Contact her at [email protected].