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Budget talks open, with Gaetz calling for “businesslike schedule”

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by John Kennedy

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz kicked off budget negotiations between the two sides Monday, predicting mostly smooth and swift-running talks toward completing a roughly $75 billion election-year spending plan.

The House and Senate have about a week to complete a process that usually takes at least twice that time. Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the Legislature’s absence last week for the Passover-Easter holidays will force a “very businesslike schedule” for the session’s homestretch.

“This is not a partisan exercise,” Gaetz said. “We’re in this together.”

The session is scheduled to end May 2. But because the constitution requires that the final budget proposal sit for 72 hours before a vote takes place, Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said an agreement is likely needed to be reached by next Tuesday.

A tax-and-fee cut package of $500 million, also sought by Gov. Rick Scott, has been agreed-on, although details of about $100 million worth of givebacks still must be settled. Public school dollars are close, with a per-pupil increase of about 3 percent likely.

But spending on dozens of hometown projects and big-ticket environmental proposals like Everglades restoration, waterway and springs cleanup loom as some of the biggest differences between the two sides.

The House and Senate approved dueling budgets earlier this month that now must be reconciled.  Both sides topped the $74.2 billion blueprint Gov. Rick Scott rolled out in January.

The Senate would spend $74.8 billion, while the House weighs in at $75.3 billion. Each would prove the largest spending plans in state history.

In a year of budget plenty, waiting lists for elderly, disabled trimmed only a little

Sunday, April 13th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Despite a year of plenty for state lawmakers, with overall spending almost certain to hit record levels, relatively meager increases proposed for elderly and disabled programs do little to scale back the massive backlog of Floridians seeking aid.

The state’s waiting lists for elderly long-term health services, community care, Alzheimer’s Disease assistance and help for people with disabilities would shrink by only modest percentages, despite a $1.2 billion surplus of state revenue fueling rival $75 billion House and Senate budget proposals.

Lawmakers are touting this year’s plan to spend roughly $37 million to reduce the number of elderly Floridians awaiting services. But legislators acknowledge the line won’t really be shortened by much.

With the nation’s largest number of people over age 65, Florida has a 9,000-person waiting list for community care services that help keep the elderly in their homes. Advocates say the number of people seeking services could actually be more than three times that.

But in its budget, House is looking to take 751 people off the waiting list; the Senate would add 601 Floridians for care.

Either way, less than 10 percent of those seeking coverage will gain services.

“This is penny-wise and pound-foolish not to spend more,” said David Bruns, spokesman for AARP-Florida. “The cost of people going into nursing homes is so much more. But (legislators) are taking such a small step.”

Full story here:  bit.ly/1kUJURa

 

House and Senate budgets roll out — topping Scott’s blueprint

Friday, March 21st, 2014 by John Kennedy

The House unveiled it’s 2014-15 state budget proposal Friday, following the Senate’s release a day earlier and setting the legislative session on course for the homestretch haggling.

Both proposals top the $74.2 billion blueprint Gov. Rick Scott rolled out in January. The Senate would spend $74.8 billion, while the House weighs in at $75.3 billion. Each would prove the largest spending plans in state history.

In an election year, lawmakers usually look favorably on school spending and this year’s no different. Still, neither hit the $1 billion increases that marked the last two years of state spending following a $1.3 billion cut for schools during Scott’s first year as governor.

While Scott earlier recommended a $542 million boost for K-12, the Senate is calling for a $651 million boost and the House $740.8 million more. The Legislature has been helped by new revenue projections, which fattened the state’s budget surplus to $1.2 billion.

The per-pupil increase of 3 percent in the House surpasses the 2.5 percent Scott called for, and the 2.6 percent emerging from the Senate.

Still, the per-pupil amount next year still looks certain to be a couple hundred dollars below the record $7,126 achieved in 2007-08, before the state’s economy tanked with the recession.

Legislature’s budget work begins, flush with cash and kumbaya

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The Florida House took the first step toward crafting the 2014-15 state budget Thursday by allocating lump-sum dollars to various subcommittees who soon will start making line-by-line spending recommendations.

There are few surprises.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, hinted that his chamber was closely aligned with Rick Scott’s push for at least $500 million in tax-and-fee reductions and virtually the same $542 million increase in school spending sought by the governor. The $1.2 billion in budget reserves set aside also is about the same as the current year.

“Due to improved economic conditions and the continued fiscal constraint of the Legislature, our state is well on the road to financial recovery,” Weatherford said in a statement accompanying the budget allocations.

“It remains vitally important to maintain the disciplined fiscal principles that led us to where we are today but also recognize that the state can now afford to return revenues to the taxpayer in addition to funding state priorities,” he added.

Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, have acknowledged they are seeking to avoid political drama this session, just months before a pivotal election in which the Republican Party’s 16-year command of the governor’s office could be in jeopardy.

Spending decisions also were made easier Wednesday when state economists increased by $150 million the amount of projected revenue that is available to dole out next year.

Finally, the kumbaya was complete when both sides Thursday came to virtual agreement on a $400 million reduction in motorist fees first recommended by Scott. The Senate had been promoting a smaller cut — about $230 million — but, like the House and governor, came around to the higher figure.

“I’m pleased that as the bill moved through the committee process, we gained support within the Senate to increase the amount and scope of this needed reduction in fees,” said Senate Budget Chair Joe Negron, R-Stuart. ” I’m grateful to Gov. Scott and our colleagues in the House for their leadership on this important issue.”

 

House budget panel advances idea of tech czar

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The House budget committee Wednesday approved creating a new chief information officer for the state of Florida, consolidating a range of hardware and software  duties under a tech czar reporting to the governor.

The state currently spends $733 million annually on information technology without significant coordination, said Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland. Most agencies operate their own data centers and critics say the current set-up is costlier to taxpayers and has led to some major department misfires.

The state’s Department of Economic Opportunity has been battling with technology giant Deloitte Consulting LLP over the state’s $63 million unemployment web site, problem-plagued since its debut last October. While a high-profile tech snafu, DEO’s woes aren’t alone.

A state technology contract for recouping Medicaid overpayments also has been troubled in recent years. Even the Legislature has spent heavily on public information websites it later scrapped.

Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, said the state not having a centralized technology department is laughable — something, he said that private companies in the 1980s saw a need for. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, also said the $70 billion-plus state government demands more efficiency.

“I can’t imagine a business the size of this business that doesn’t have an IT governance structure,” Baxley said.

The House proposal, labeled a priority by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, would create a 27-person Agency for State Technology, whose executive director would report directly to the governor. First-year costs would be $3.2 million.

The Senate is looking at a similar proposal.

While it would seem to place a huge volume of technology contracts more directly under the governor, lawmakers from both parties praised the approach.

Indeed, McKeel sounded the only sour notes Wednesday — saying that he was so frustrated by the actions of the state’s Department of Management Services, that he wanted them removed from the sole authority of Gov. Rick Scott and placed under the control of the governor and Cabinet.

DMS, the state’s main purchasing agent, has run afoul of McKeel on several issues, including the technology proposal. While McKeel withdrew his amendment redirecting authority of the agency Wednesday, he warned that he may make another attempt if DMS doesn’t shape up.

Scott’s latest tax cut proposal pushes givebacks over $600 million

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott unveiled another tax cut proposal Tuesday — a $104 million reduction in the sales tax on business rents.

Scott, who promised a $500 million overall reduction in fees and taxes this election year, has so far floated five different proposed cuts that add up to about $618 million in savings, according to the governor’s math.

The growing level of givebacks may earn Scott some resistance in the Legislature, where some lawmakers appear initially underwhelmed with his proposal for school funding and also want to maintain a large budget reserve.

Scott promoted the break for business rentals at an Ace Hardware Store in Orlando, a day before he plans to roll out his full budget recommendation to the Legislature for the 2014-15 year.

While reducing the 6 percent state sales tax on commercial leases appears to be Scott’s final tax-cut pitch, the governor heard the request from many business leaders last fall when he embarked on a four-day listening tour seeking ideas for trimming taxes.

Scott opened his tour in September in West Palm Beach, where Palm Beach County Business Development Board President Kelly Smallridge brought up the tax.

“Whenever we’re courting a company to come to the state of Florida and Palm Beach County, they’re taking a look at these real estate taxes on leases and we’re one of the only states that has a tax on commercial leases,” Smallridge said.

 

Scott schools’ budget big — but maybe not that big

Monday, January 27th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Scott's per-pupil dollars not mentioned in rollout.

Gov. Rick Scott’s election-year education budget, unveiled Monday in Delray Beach, is touted as including record amounts of spending for Florida schools, colleges and universities.

But one basic numbers remains elusive.

What is Scott’s per-pupil funding for K-12 students?

It wasn’t touched on by Scott or his staff — and may loom as a basic measurement that may not measure up to the biggest ever.

The state’s all-time mark for per-pupil spending was reached in 2007-8, when then-Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law a budget which included average, per-pupil spending of $7,126 for Florida’s roughly 2.7 million school kids.

The recession and budget-cutting blew a hole in that figure. It dropped to a recent low of $6,217 in Scott’s first year as governor — when he cut school spending by $1.3 billion.

Since then, back-to-back years of billion-dollar increases in school spending have brought per-pupil spending back up. But this year’s average $6,776 remains $350 short of the record reached under Crist, now Scott’s leading Democratic opponent in this fall’s governor’s race.

Scott has included a few items in his budget that appear intended to take a swipe at Crist. His $401 million motorist fee cut is the most noteworthy, since it erases a fee hike signed into law by Crist. Monday afternoon, Scott planned to make an appearance in Miami to tout a sales-tax holiday on hurricane-related purchases, last deployed by the state when Crist was governor.

On schools, the record for per-pupil spending was something many thought Scott was aiming at.

Last year, Scott proposed a $1.2 billion boost in school spending, which would have increased per pupil spending by $412. But based on that math, the $542 million increase he recommended Monday is likely to bring per-pupil spending to just around $7,000 — still below the mark reached in the good times by his Democratic nemesis.

Scott budget proposal to touch all election-year bases

Sunday, January 26th, 2014 by John Kennedy

More money for the environment, schools and Florida’s top industries will be packaged with a big slug of fee cuts in the election-year budget proposal that Gov. Rick Scott is poised to release this week.

The Republican executive, who entered office eager to shrink state government, appears to have recast himself with this, the fourth and final budget recommendation of his first term.

After weeks of teasing out key portions, Scott plans to unveil the full spending document Wednesday at the Capitol. But Scott strategists early on settled on its bumper-sticker title, the “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget.”

“When Governor Scott took office, he inherited the mess Charlie Crist left him,” Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry said of Scott’s predecessor, the former GOP governor turned Democratic rival.

“The governor first had to stop the bleeding. But now, things are turning around, and he can give back.”

Instead of proposing deep cuts to state spending—as he did his first year as chief executive —Scott is scattering cash across sectors whose advocates are pivotal to his re-election hopes.

Full story here:  bit.ly/1dHtBkZ

 

Scott to call for 15-day hurricane sales tax holiday

Sunday, January 26th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott will announce Monday that he wants a 15-day sales tax holiday on flashlights, tarps and other supplies related to hurricane preparedness.

The sales-tax holiday proposal is the latest in a series of rollouts the governor has been doing before unveiling his full 2014-15 budget proposal Wednesday. In an event Monday at Delray Beach’s Spady Elementary School, he also is expected to showcase one of the budget’s biggest provisions — his school spending plan for next fall.

The hurricane sales tax holiday would save taxpayers about $20 million, according to the governor’s office.

Similar hurricane holidays were earlier held in 2006 and 2007, after the state was whacked by a series of bad storms. The 2007 holiday was signed into law by Scott’s predecessor, former Gov. Charlie Crist, then a Republican but who now looms as Scott’s Democratic rival for re-election.

Scott plans to make the hurricane-related announcement at a lumber store in Miami’s Coconut Grove.

Scott has promised to recommend cutting taxes and fees by $500 million in his budget proposal, including a proposed sales-tax holiday on back-to-school shopping. But the bulk of the proposed savings, $401 million, would come from his plan to eliminate increases on a wide range of motorist fees that were approved in 2009 when Crist was governor.

Scott to cut corporate filing fees

Friday, January 24th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that he wants to cut the state’s corporate filing fees by $33 million — another piece of the state budget he plans to roll out next week.

The $33 million giveback comes on top of a $401 million reduction in motorist fees he proposed earlier.

“Today’s announcement puts more money back into the pockets of business owners and entrepreneurs across this great state, so they can make investments and grow more jobs,” Scott said.

Scott’s plan would reduce 50 different corporate filing fees and shrink the penalties imposed on late filings. Some of the fees Scott is targeting were last boosted in 2009, when Democratic rival Charlie Crist was the state’s Republican governor. That was the year the motorist fees also were cranked up by Crist and lawmakers looking to close a budget gap.

Scott ups the election-year ante with 10-day tax-free holiday

Friday, January 17th, 2014 by John Kennedy

With a budget surplus and election year facing him, Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that he is proposing a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday this year — upping the three-day tax-exempt periods approved the past four years.

“By creating this holiday, we’ll help Floridians keep more of their money, while helping prepare every Florida student for another school year,” Scott said of his proposal, unveiled before a Florida Chamber of Commerce event in Orlando.

Tax-free items would include clothing valued at less than $100, school supplies costing under $15, and computers and related equipment costing less than $750. The overall value of the tax-free period would be about $60 million, Scott said.

The idea still has to be embraced by the Legislature, which begins the two-month session March 4. But with a $1.1 billion budget surplus, Scott has already mapped out plans to cut motor vehicle fees by $401 million and is likely to propose another increase in public school funding similar to last year’s $1 billion boost.

 

With cash on hand, Scott recommends boosting transportation spending

Monday, January 13th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Keeping with a theme, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday said he plans to propose an increase in state transportation spending when he unveils his state budget plan in coming weeks.

Scott last week announced he was looking to boost spending on tourism to $100 million, up from $63 million currently. In transportation, in an event at the Port of Jacksonville, Scott said Monday that he’ll recommend $8.8 billion in state spending — a $200 million boost from the 2013-14 budget.

Within the set-aside, Scott said $138.9 million should go to seaport improvements.

“From construction jobs to increased trade opportunities, transportation projects provide tremendous job and economic benefit,” Scott said. “This investment will enable our state to remain competitive for many years to come.”

After years of budget cutting, Florida is on track for a $1.1 billion surplus in the coming election year. Scott looks poised to spread the cash around, having already recommend $500 million in tax and fee cuts.

With tax receipts rising, Florida’s treasury a little fatter for election year

Friday, December 6th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Tax collections are flowing into the state treasury at a faster clip than expected, giving Florida lawmakers an extra $321.4 million to spend next year, economists said Friday.

After six years of budget-cutting, this year’s $74.1 billion blueprint was the first where Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature didn’t face a shortfall.

But sales tax receipts have spiked over the past few months, powering the extra cash heading into a 2014 election year where the state of Florida’s economy looms as a central campaign theme.

Still, economists were cautious with their praise.

“It’s very modest, but it’s definitely positive,” said Amy Baker, coordinator for the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research and part of the panel that made Fridays’ forecast.

Full story here:   http://bit.ly/19nkiFV

 

Larry Fuchs, longtime revenue director and critic, dead at 71

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 by John Kennedy

Larry Fuchs, who served as Florida Revenue Director under four governors, died Friday in Tallahassee. He was 71.

Fuchs led the Revenue Department as an interim director in 1990, returning full-time in 1992 through 1999. He retired from state government the next year.

Fuchs was a plain spoken critic of the state’s tax system, complaining that it had grown increasingly inadequate in meeting the needs of a fast-growing and evolving economy. While most agency heads shun the spotlight — especially in matters that could put their bosses in controversial spots — Fuchs seemed to enjoy shaking things up.

Fuchs famously posed on the cover of Florida Trend magazine in 1999 with his pants pockets pulled out under a headline that read, “We’re Broke.”

At the time, Fuchs was warning that commerce was migrating to the Internet even as the state continued to rely on a sales tax system that takes in less than it exempts.

Fast-forward, and Fuchs’ screed still sounds fresh. In the last budget year, Florida collected $20.3 billion in sales tax revenue, while exempting $29.3 billion in goods and services from tax.  In addition, an estimated $450 million in Internet sales also went untaxed.

Fuchs, though, was mindful of the political realities in a state led by fiscal conservatives. Term limits also shorten the horizon, keeping most lawmakers from considering  big change.

In a story last year in the Palm Beach Post he acknowledged, “”I’m a notorious cynic, but I don’t see anything right now that can possibly force change.”

In retirement, Fuchs became a well-known fine art photographer. He also was president of the board of a Tallahassee arts center, where he put his revenue skills to work in guiding it through a financial crisis.

Scott unveils three-point budget agenda for election year

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott put out a three-point plan Tuesday that he says will guide his state budget proposals heading into next spring, an election year.

Scott’s top item was unveiled earlier this summer — a $500 million reduction in state taxes and fees. But the Republican governor is following that up with a pledge to continue reducing the state’s debt and the size of government.

Scott dubbed the outline the “It’s Your Money Tax Cut” agenda. The narrative that stretches the three bullet points across six pages includes plenty of pronouncements that fit neatly into next year’s campaign.

“Since taking office, Gov. Scott has insisted on a new way of doing business: the government of the state of Florida must make decisions with Floridians’ tax dollars the way Florida families would if they were sitting around their own kitchen tables,” the agenda reads. “Just as families would do, Gov. Scott has made decisions that respect the difficulty of earning a living.”

The aspirational goals Scott settles on are largely built on steps he has taken his first three years in office.

Scott has reduced state borrowing by slowing environmental land purchases and school maintenance projects, reducing debt by $3.5 billion from a record high $28.2 billion in 2010. Tax and fee cutting also has been a central part of every one of Scott’s budget proposals, although lawmakers have scaled back each year’s recommendation.

One element of Scott’s outline that may be fresh: He wants state agencies to reduce their spending by $100 million in the coming year. Since last October, the governor’s office says state agencies already have identified $146.3 million in cost savings, mostly through renegotiating contracts.

“In business, Gov. Scott knew that companies had to become more efficient and reduce costs for better services by 2 to 3 percent each year to remain competitive,” the agenda states. “Taxpayers deserve no different from the government that they fund.”

Florida motorist fees, which skyrocketed in recession, headed back toward earth

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 by John Kennedy

License, registration and tag fees could be coming down.

Florida motorist fees, cranked up in 2009 by state lawmakers scrambling to close budget holes, would drop sharply under legislation approved Wednesday by a Senate panel.

The Transportation Committee voted 9-0 to approve a $233 million cut in driver license, registration and tag fees, which earned high marks in its first legislative hearing.

“This year with the economy improving and our budget picture being brighter than it has been in the past, I think it’s important that if we’re going to reduce fees and taxes, which I hope we will this session, that we choose one…that almost all our hardworking citizens pay,” said Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, sponsor of the measure (SB 156).

The reduction represents about half the increase that kicked-in four years ago, when the state was staggered by the recession.

“It takes us halfway there,” said Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Coral Gables.

Senate Republicans want more reserves, talk less about tax cuts

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Senate Republican leaders downplayed Gov. Rick Scott’s call for $500 million in tax and fee cuts Thursday, saying it’s more important for Florida to have robust budget reserves heading into next year’s elections.

Senate budget chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said lawmakers should first pledge to set aside $1.5 billion in reserves — up from the $1 billion now proposed — before going through the budget and finding cash for other needs.

Negron already wants at least $100 million dedicated to a range of work needed to ease environmental problems stemming from Lake Okeechobee, but he’s not saying ‘no’ to Scott’s election-year tax-and-fee-cut proposal.

“I think that’s a very good marker that the governor has set,” Negron said. “But…to achieve that, we’d have to go through the budget and make reductions and use that money to deploy for those fee-and-tax cuts and other spending.”

The state is expecting an $845.7 million budget surplus next year. But about have the cash is one-time money flowing into the treasury, making it tough to use on cuts that would be a recurring expense, economist Amy Baker told the budget panel.

Scott earlier this month promoted his giveaway plan on a four-day swing across five cities, kicking off the tour in West Palm Beach. Scott hasn’t specified what cuts he’s considering. But the tour gave business leaders a chance to pitch him on a host of ideas, including cutting the state’s sales tax on rental property to lowering utility taxes.

Petersen named to web task force

Monday, August 26th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Barbara Petersen, longtime president of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation, the news organization-backed open government advocacy group, was named Monday to a legislative panel examining public access to state  records and contracts.

Petersen was Senate President Don Gaetz’s pick for the four-person User Experience Task Force, which is expected to make recommendations for next spring’s Legislature. The task force is working on methods to consolidate existing state-managed websites into a single portal that will give the public access to state financial documents.

“Barbara Peterson is Florida’s respected guardian of open records, open meetings and open government,” Gaetz said. “Her leadership of the First Amendment Foundation gives credibility and reliability to this important work.”

The task force has grown out of questions stemming from the Florida Senate’s $5 million contract with Spider Data Services, which developed a site dubbed Transparency 2.0 to give legislators and staff a window into the budget, state contracts and personnel services. The system was ready to launch in November 2011 but was never unveiled.

The Senate has been in a legal battle with Spider Data over payment on the contract.

The Senate has said there are problems with the service and has concerns about how the contract was reached under the previous administration of Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne. But some open government advocates say Spider Data’s site may have proved a too open window into how items get inserted into the state budget by lawmakers.

 

Scott chides Obama for being late to higher-ed cost cutting

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

Rick Scott chided the Obama administration Thursday for being late to a drive the Republican governor has tried to lead in Florida — lowering the cost of university tuition.

Speaking at the University of Buffalo, President Obama announced plans Thursday for a federal rating system that would allow parents to compare the cost and quality of colleges. The proposal, which likely faces a tough road through Congress, also would tie the distribution of $150 billion in federal aid to students to this rating system.

“The president is certainly late to the party on making higher education more affordable, but we are glad he’s here,” Scott said.

Scott has condemned rising university tuition in Florida but only this year managed to put the brakes on what had been almost 20 straight years of tuition increases. A 1.7 percent automatic, cost-of-living increase was the only hike allowed at most schools this year — after double-digit hikes dominated last year.

Last year, however, the hefty tuition hikes were largely forced by a $300 million cut universities were forced to shoulder in a budget signed by Scott.

The governor also said the White House could learn from other steps Florida has taken, including the introduction of a handful of $10,000 degree programs at the state’s two-dozen colleges.

“We are focused on improving the value of higher education for students and parents by fighting tuition hikes and rewarding schools that graduate students who get jobs,” Scott said. “Just this year, we passed a budget that included $20 million in performance funding for universities tied to graduates who find jobs, the salary of those jobs, and the cost of their degree.

“Florida is taking the lead in making higher education more affordable and the nation is starting to follow,” he concluded.

Congressional reaction to Obama’s plan broke along party lines, with many Republicans skeptical of the rating system. Among the harsher critics: Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who clearly didn’t view the plan the same as his state’s governor.

“I’m strongly opposed to his plan to impose new federal standards on higher education institutions,” Rubio said. “This is a slippery slope, and one that ends with the private sector inevitably giving up more of its freedom to innovate and take risks.

“The U.S. did not create the best higher education system in the world by using standards set by Washington bureaucrats,” Rubio said.

 

Universities chief Frank Brogan to leave for Penn post

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Frank Brogan, head of Florida’s State University System since 2009 and a former president of Florida Atlantic University, said Wednesday that he will be leaving the chancellor’s post for a similar job in Pennsylvania on Oct. 1.

“Florida’s university system is on a clear path toward greater prominence and relevance thanks to the support and dedication of the Board of Governors, university leaders, faculty and staff,” Brogan said. “It’s never easy to leave a place you
love, but it is so much easier knowing that Florida is poised for a bright future.”

Brogan has been a political Zelig in Florida. A former teacher, Martin County schools superintendent, elected to the then-Cabinet post of Education Commissioner as a Republican and lieutenant governor under former Gov. Jeb Bush before leaving for FAU, Brogan’s Florida career spans 35 years.

His service as Florida chancellor was already winding down. He had joined the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) and was expected to step down within the next two years.

Instead, the 59-year-old Brogan looks ready to revive his academic career as chancellor of the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education, overseeing 14 universities and 115,000 students. Florida has 12 public universities and 335,000 students.

“We were looking for a strong administrator and a transformational leader who will collaborate with traditional and non-traditional stakeholders representing divergent views on what is best for our students and their families,” said Pennsylvania
Board of Governors Chairman Guido M. Pichini.

“Frank Brogan will be that leader,” Pichini added. “He has had an impressive record of success throughout his
career. He understands the many complexities and challenges facing public higher education and the vital role public universities play both in preparing students for a lifetime of their own success and in ensuring the economic vitality of the state. We are excited about him becoming our next chancellor.”

In Florida, Brogan managed to be a deft diplomat, balancing the demands of universities seeking higher tuition with a push by Gov. Rick Scott to hold the line on student costs. The struggle played out against the backdrop of a system where taxpayer support has fallen 20 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars over the past two decades.

Gov. Rick Scott has made higher education a focus of his administration. He has ridiculed Florida universities for steering students toward undergraduate degrees not easily converted toward careers. Scott appointments now also make up a majority of the State University System’s Board of Governors, Brogan’s bosses.

For Scott, Brogan’s departure represents another top state post in need of filling. In a two-week period, Florida’s social services chief and the state education commissioner both resigned, while the post of lieutenant governor has been empty since Jennifer Carroll quit last spring.

Scott said Wednesday that Brogan will be missed.

“Frank Brogan has had an incredible career in public service – especially in education,” Scott said. “Florida’s education system has benefited from his hard work and his commitment to providing every Florida child with a quality education. His
service will be greatly missed by education leaders throughout the state.

“I have no doubt, however, that he will continue working to provide families with more opportunities, so they can live their version of the American Dream.”

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