Expect to hear some sequestration bashing when Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson speaks at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch Monday, although Nelson helped set the stage for the automatic spending cuts two years ago.
The Forum Club says Nelson “will criticize ‘meat-cleaver’ budget cuts under sequestration and call for targeting wasteful government spending as a means of trimming the budget.”
In a preview last week, Nelson told reporters that Everglades restoration projects are threatened because “the tea party doesn’t want to do anything but what’s called the sequester, which is this meat-cleaver approach across the board.” He later urged attendees at a meeting on St. Lucie River pollution to speak out against “this idiotic idea of a sequester.”
Sequestration was created as part of a bipartisan 2011 debt ceiling deal that Nelson supported and President Barack Obama signed. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and many in the tea party were opposed, saying the spending restraints didn’t go far enough.
While Nelson voted for the 2011 deal, spokesman Dan McLaughlin said the sequestration portion of the bill “was never intended to happen. It was a default position put in place in case a select legislative committee couldn’t reach agreement on more targeted cuts of wasteful government spending.”
That select committee failed to agree on deficit-reduction measures in 2012. Since then, McLaughlin said, “Sen. Nelson and others have offered ideas on ways to get rid of the sequester. Yet some of the most rigid members of Congress still won’t put aside their partisan political differences in favor of finding common-sense solutions.”
— Martin County Democratic Chairman Dennis Killila sees hope for his outnumbered party in the polluted waters of the St. Lucie and Indian Rivers.
The GOP has a 50.6 to 26.2 percent registration advantage over Dems in Martin County. Republicans hold every partisan elected office in Martin County except for Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy’s congressional seat, which also includes St. Lucie County and northern Palm Beach County.
In an email last week seeking to recruit Democratic candidates, Killila said: “The pollution of the St Lucie and Indian Rivers has focused voters attention on the need for change. Stopping the pollution is a winnable issue. Our current representatives are playing dumb on this and we shouldn’t let them get away with it.”
Whether or not the issue ends up helping Martin County Democrats, there’s no denying the water problems are a huge concern with Treasure Coast voters, and politicians have taken note.
Murphy last month invited Gov. Rick Scott to Washington to meet with officials from the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages discharges into the river from Lake Okeechobee. Besides Nelson’s highly publicized helicopter tour and meeting with scientists and water managers last week, state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Scott plan to tour a water discharge structure on the St. Lucie River on Tuesday to highlight their concerns about Army Corps discharges.
— The budget crunch continues for the Palm Beach County Republican Party. County GOP Chairman Ira Sabin laid off the party’s two paid staffers in June as part of a 44 percent budget cut. But a few days later, Sabin announced that executive director Cathy Brandenburg and political director Mark Hoch would be rehired because “we had some donors step up and that allowed us to resume normal operations.”
At last week’s Republican Executive Committee meeting, however, Sabin and Treasurer Jim Spafford said Brandenburg and Hoch were not rehired as full-time employees with benefits but as two-day-a-week consultants. The change cuts the local GOP’s personnel expenses from around $12,000 a month to less than $4,000 a month, Spafford said. Sabin said the staffers’ hours could increase if more money comes in.
— Make sure you’re up on your historical and pop-culture references when there’s public discussion of Palm Beach County Inspector General Sheryl Steckler and her office.
“Philosophers from Aristotle to Confucius have emphasized the importance of ethical government,’’ said Acreage resident Alan Ballweg last week in urging county commissioners not to cut the IG’s budget. Another member of the public channeled the Cuba Gooding Jr. character in the 1996 film “Jerry Maguire,” telling commissioners to “Show me the money.” Commissioner Jess Santamaria piped in with an Abraham Lincoln reference.
Two days later, Ethics Committee Chairman Manuel Farach invoked Oakland A’s general manager and “Moneyball” impresario Billy Beane when discussing metrics to evaluate the IG. Later, Farach referred a reporter to Lord Acton’s “absolute power corrupts absolutely” quote to argue for a one-term limit for the inspector general.
Staff writer Joe Capozzi contributed to this column.