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    A Times Editorial

    Turkey hunt turns drive-by

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 26, 2001


    Every year, Gov. Jeb Bush holds his annual turkey shoot, using his line item veto to cut special projects from the budget. And every year some worthy projects get caught in the cross-fire.

    Bush slashed $35-million in community social service and juvenile justice programs, saying they either failed to meet one of the state's core missions or should have found funds from federal, local or private donors. By those standards, his list of alleged turkeys looks a bit hypocritical as well as harmful.

    Some of the hardest hit programs were Boys' and Girls' Clubs in counties such as Hernando, Pasco and Citrus. These institutions provide educational enrichment, homework assistance and after-school activities supervised by adult mentors. They operate during the time of day when young people are most often the victims and perpetrators of crime. Because children are there, they perform better in school, have less contact with law enforcement and need fewer expensive services later.

    The governor vetoed funds for these and other prevention programs even though crime prevention is one of the six stated core functions of the Department of Juvenile Justice. He also vetoed funds for programs focused on child abuse and family counseling even though preventing abuse and neglect is part of the the Department of Children and Families' core mission. And he vetoed funds for prenatal care clinics and adolescent treatment facilities even though the Department of Health's mission is to help all Floridians avoid and conquer disease, disability and addiction.

    The vetoes also fly in the face of Bush's stated preference for community-based solutions. After-school programs and rural health clinics combat some of the state's most intractable problems at ground zero, rather than following models dictated by the state. Yet rather than empower local people, the vetoes hobble their initiatives.

    In years past, Floridians have expected and even encouraged the governor to go after budget turkeys. But this year's attack on youth projects looks less like a turkey hunt and more like a drive-by shooting.

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