While its doubtful Rick Scott cares even a little bit what the editors of the Tampa Bay Times think, they may be onto the reason why Florida’s governor will have to veto the bill which will make USF Poly an independent institution. As CEO of a major hospital chain he wouldn’t have dreamed of doing something similar.
As head of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, Scott would not have acquired another hospital without studying the geographic market, the demand for services and the potential for return on investment. As governor, he talks constantly of measuring performance and spending public money on programs that work. Alexander’s demand for a new university in Lakeland fails on all counts.
There has been no independent analysis that supports the creation of a new university, and the projections by its supporters are wildly inflated. There is no statewide consensus that building a new university is the best way to improve a system where three universities rank among the nation’s largest and none rank among the top 50 academically. If there were broad support for a new school, the likelihood that it would be built in Lakeland is slim and none. Florida Polytech would be a trophy for Alexander that generations of Florida taxpayers will pay for over decades. The losers will be the University of Florida, the University of South Florida and other colleges that already are underfunded and could put those millions to better use.
The creepy team that JD Alexander put together to lobby Scott this week reeked of self- interest. Alexander’s inclusion of fired and disgraced former chancellor Marshall Goodman speaks to his arrogance and tone deafness. The Lake Wales senator continues to operate as if the state were his own little play thing, but this desperate little visit to the governor’s office indicates he’s aware that his little scheme may be unraveling.
Scott’s failure to put any kind of signature on the energy bill was an odd non-committment. Both the Florida Tea Party network and ALEC had lobbied heavily for his veto. Does it indicate that Scott is going to acquiesce to powerful state republican pols like the energy bill’s champion, Adam Putnam, and a senate power-broker like Alexander?
Meanwhile, the influential Florida Council of 100 called called for a veto yesterday of the USF Poly split. This essentially serves as a call for a veto from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, too. The later couldn’t go public as it didn’t want to embarrass its members who went to Alexander’s meeting with Scott this week.
Even Scott’s biggest detractors doubt his business acumen. This alone makes the Times’ take plausible. Florida’s governor was a political novice when he took office, but his game markedly improved when he hired Steve MacNamara last summer to be his chief of staff. The timing of the Council of 100′s position is likely to be choreographed with the assistance of guys like MacNamara who seeks political cover for his boss. Nevermind the fact that a republican governor really can’t say no to the most influential business group in the state.