I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Senator Bill Nelson Visits Pensacola Elected Officials
United States Senator Bill Nelson (D) met with about three dozen locally elected officials and other interested community members this morning at Pensacola State College.
Mr. Nelson is making stops today in Pensacola, Ft. Walton Beach, Destin, and Chipley.
If the session in Pensacola is any indication as to the motivation for the visit—the RESTORE act and lobbying for its passage in the U.S. House of Representatives (free of any major amendments) is the impetus for the Senator’s panhandle visit; the inevitable media coverage his visit locally will garner during this heated campaign year is probably a part of the reasoning for the visit as well.
Mr. Nelson spent about 40 minutes explaining, in very detailed fashion, the way in which he and the other Gulf State Senators were able to get the RESTORE act passed in the U.S. Senate by a 74-22 margin. The Senator was very complimentary toward the Republican Senators that voted with him to pass the bill, however he had nothing to say about those who voted no. Nelson explained some of the technicalities of the bill and the fact that if it is passed in its current form, 80% of the BP fine money-which could be anywhere from $5- $20Billion dollars—would be dedicated to the gulf states that were directly impacted by the oil spill. The catch, according to Senator Nelson, was that in order to pass the bill to get the BP fine money, new revenue had to be generated to satisfy a GAO report stating the RESTORE act would cost $1.5Billion to implement. Nelson, deridingly described this GAO figure of $1.5Billion as “fiction”—but he did mention that, oh by the way, he had found a mechanism by which he could raise $2.5Billion to satisfy the GAO requirement (and then some!)! (He never fully described this “mechanism”, only saying that it was something already “on the books”, not enforced for 9 of the last 10 years, and that if implemented this year would
generate $2.5Billion. My sense is that it would be some sort of a tax increase, most likely allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to fully expire, charging investors higher capital gains rates---a non-starter idea, in my opinion. And this is the reason why his counterpart, Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, voted NO on the RESTORE act. This is also why the bill is held up in the U.S. House)
Senator Nelson spent a portion of this forty minutes also regurgitating some standard Democratic party talking points about deficit reduction—Namely that spending cuts alone cannot get the budget under control and that the “ONLY WAY” to get a balanced budget is the expand the tax base [AKA: RAISING TAXES] and reduce spending simultaneously—which I do not believe either. (The reality---the quickest, most efficient way to get a budget balanced is to control discretionary spending, hold the line on or reduce taxation, and loosen the reins of government burdens on businesses to get the economy rolling. Just my opinion, though.)
Senator Nelson then took five (5) audience questions/comments:
1. Wilson Robertson, Escambia Commission Chairman, asked that any settlement with BP not be a complete and final settlement, as He felt that the damage from the spill could exceed what would be offered in a settlement, and Wilson asked the Senator to speak to this concern. Senator Nelson did not directly answer the question, but rather simply restated his belief that the full impact of the spill is not known but a settlement now is the a prudent course to take.
2. I thanked the Senator for coming to Pensacola and I asked the Senator to explain how he could utilize his leadership position on the Senate Finance committee to address the ballooning Federal Student Loan Debt situation. Escalating defaults are putting taxpayers on the hook (like the banking/real estate collapse) and many borrowers are deferring payments and actually dying before paying the loans back! I stated the fact that this debt exceeds $1Trillion and if the problem gets worse and is not solved it could put the economy on a course toward recession again. Senator Nelson said the senate passed a law that limits federal student loans to students attending institutions with a high historical default rate. On the subject of collecting the outstanding loans, the senator simply stated that “It is an issue that is real-- and we need to start working on this.”
3. Patty Hightower asked if the Senator had any sense of whether or not the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (AKA No Child Left Behind) would be re-authorized before elections, and the Senator gave a long winded description of why he did not think it would be acted upon—summarized by the statement that during the election year some lawmakers were
“Too Chicken” to make the tough decision and act on this bill.
4. Grover Robinson praised the Senator’s actions on behalf of the Gulf coast but quickly turned the mood by pressing the Senator to send more resources to the Gulf and eliminate NOAA bureaucratic red tape and improper analysis of actual conditions of the fish stocks in the gulf; This red tape, according to Robinson, was hindering the Gulf Coast Fishing Industry and the overall recovery locally from the oil spill. The Senator used this question from Grover to pivot back to his RESTORE act and what it would do to fund Gulf research that would help give meaningful data to local communities regarding the health of the Gulf of Mexico. Senator Nelson also took this time to vehemently defend the idea of not allowing any drilling in the Eastern Gulf Coast—saying any drilling operations would interfere with military training and also stating that “There is no oil there” and that “36 Million Acres of the Gulf are Leased out, yet these companies are only utilizing 6 Million of these Acres for drilling” Nelson reaffirmed his opposition to expanded drilling, yet he offered no alternate plan or idea to lower energy prices for taxpayers, which I thought was somewhat peculiar. I mean, at least bring a jar of seaweed, a Solyndra solar panel, a windmill--- or something?? But to just say “I don’t want expanded drilling” while simultaneously offering no alternative solution to lower prices for taxpayers, is somewhat weak. Just my opinion, though.
5. PC WU only added comments of thanks to Senator Nelson for his willingness to meet with the league of Cities group which had recently visited Washington DC, and Mr. Wu also praised Nelson for his availability and accessibility to locally elected officials.
The Senator spoke for about ten minutes with the media outlets after the main meeting, and then he quickly departed for his next event in Ft. Walton Beach.