Democratic State Sen. Bill Montford spoke at the Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce’s May 28 Go Gadsden meeting. Montford represents District 3, which includes all of Gadsden and 10 neighboring counties. Montford reviewed recent state developments and future possibilities — pending successful navigation through the state house and over the governor’s desk.
“I want to make water an issue,” said Montford, who said he is concerned about water availability. “It will be controversial. Local government cannot afford to do what needs to be done. We earmarked $400 million.”
The legislator said his efforts might be vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott.
“I believe the governor is a wise, wise business person,” said Montford, who hopes Scott will use this acumen to assess which parts of Florida can most readily weather budget cuts.
“They’ve got plenty down there to cut, but leave us alone up here,” said Montford, noting he would prefer the governor turn his attention to anyplace south of Gainesville. “All we’re looking for in northern Florida is our fair share — and a little more so we can catch up.”
According to Montford, the state has scheduled $17 million worth of road projects in Gadsden County. Montford also said the state has $20 million budgeted for the dredging of Port St. Joe — a project with economic implications for Gadsden County.
“We hope it doesn’t get vetoed,” he said.
Montford also discussed the retirement system in Florida.
“The Florida retirement system is a good, sound system,” said Montford. “Very few people go into public service to get rich. That’s one of the reasons we want to keep it like it is. It’s a good recruitment tool.”
He said the retirement debate actually exists at two distinct levels: state and local. Montford said many local systems are floundering after mismanagement — but he doesn’t support a state-funded bailout.
“You made a decision to get into the mess,” said Montford. “We shouldn’t be taxing people all over Florida to get you out.”
As far as education is concerned, Montford said the state is keeping up with standards.
“You will hear — and it’s true — that there is a record amount of money put into public education this year,” said Montford. But the legislator also said more students than ever are in the state’s education system, requiring more spending to achieve even the same results.
According to David Gardner, executive director of the chamber of commerce, there are 423 more people employed in Gadsden County than last year.
Gardner said this means the county’s unemployment rate is now below the state and national average.
“We’ll continue to fight for economic development even though we don’t have political support,” said Gardner.