Thoughts on rich salary, road costs, job growth

State Sen. Mike Bennett expressed strong sentiments in reaction to the exorbitant salary of the director of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a taxpayer-funded organization that will receive $31 million in state money in the coming fiscal year.

Outrageous it is. President Tiffany Carr got paid $316,000 and received $36,000 in benefits in 2009, triple the usual pay for a state agency head. Wow. Who wouldn't want that job?

"It's absolutely stone-(expletive) insane," Bennett stated in a Herald/Time Tallahassee Bureau report last week.

The Bradenton Republican delivered a report to Gov. Rick Scott on this shocking salary. The governor now wants the Legislature to change state law so the nonprofit coalition doesn't automatically receive state funding and competitive bidding is instituted.

While Carr can steer blame to the coalition board for approving her salary, she notes that grants and private donors contribute, too. But she also stated the board sets her salary after reviewing the pay of chief executives of comparable nonprofits. Any that are funded primarily with state tax dollars should come under a microscope as well.

Taxpayers cannot be expected to enrich the directors of nonprofit vendors.

Transportation rip-off

Florida Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad visited the region recently, paying a surprise visit to the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization and also talking to a Manatee Chamber of Commerce gathering. The essence of his message was a dire warning that the state does not have the funding to build new roads and maintain current infrastructure.

Those financing challenges, he said, could be covered by toll roads and pay-per-use systems in Manatee County.

Some of the blame for Florida's purported transportation insolvency belongs to the Legislature and Governor's Mansion. In order to balance the state budget, both conspired to raid the State Transportation Trust Fund of $265 million with sweeps in 2009 and 2011 -- to the consternation of the state's road builders, who fought the hard hit on jobs, business and the economy.

This year, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed more than $7.2 million in road projects that trust fund money would have covered.

FDOT mostly operates on gas taxes, but that revenue source is falling. Instead of raising that tax, the state strategy is more toll roads. And in the future, motorists can expect a pay-per-use system that charges a per-mile fee for the privilege to drive. Motorists will be paying more one way or another. Owners of high-mileage and electric vehicles should be incensed at the idea of a per-mile fee.

But the trend in the tax-averse Legislature is to raise fees and other charges, as if Floridians don't realize when lawmakers are dipping into their wallets. That allows the Tallahassee snake-oil salesmen to boast, "We didn't raise taxes." Well.

Should lawmakers ever again stand poised to siphon money from the transportation trust fund, Floridians should revolt.

Quote of the week

Good news on the manufacturing sector of Manatee's economy: "I would say we are going to see an uptick, keeping in mind manufacturers are constantly trying to incorporate efficiencies with technology and streamlining operations. So there's jobs, but maybe not as many as in the past due to the high-tech nature of the industry." -- Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the Manatee Economic Development Corp.