Wilton Simpson tells Pasco town hall crowd things that he says you won’t hear from the media

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

State Senator Wilton Simpson is proud of what the Florida Legislature accomplished during its recently completed 2016 Session , although he says the public probably isn’t aware of that if they relied solely on the news media over the past two months.

The GOP legislator spoke to approximately 40 (mostly senior) citizens at a town hall meeting held at the Beacon Woods Civic Center in Hudson on Tuesday. The lawmaker, who appeared on the same bill with Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and Congressman Gus Bilirakis, brought a data sheet with him to discuss some of the legislative items that he wanted the folks in his Senate District 18 area to learn about.

Simpson boasted about the Legislature cutting a billion dollars worth of taxes over the past two years, and disputed the notion that those cuts will only go to the wealthy. “You’ll hear a lot of rhetoric that only fat cats get these tax cuts,” he said, when in fact $400 million was reduced on car registration fees in 2015.

Simpson seemed conflicted about the record amount of education the Legislature expended this past year.

“We are spending more money today on education than ever spent on history per pupil than we ever have in the state of Florida,” he said, adding, “That’s not always something to be proud of, right?” Envisioning how a campaign commercial could look at that critically, he said the public might be told that the Legislature didn’t do that, because it comes on the backs of property owners. He followed that up by saying that the Legislature in fact had spent $428 million on reducing property taxes to pay for education spending.

He boasted about the state’s creditworthiness, saying, “Florida is a triple-A credit rated state. You’ll never hear that in the press.”

Later, the senator discussed legislation that will foster more manufacturing jobs, specifically mentioning the investment in ports and eliminating sales tax on manufacturing equipment. “Maybe 5-10 years from now, Florida will be a major import-export state and manufacturing state,” he said, adding that those manufacturing jobs are multipliers, adding more people to the economy.

At the end of his speech on all the legislation, he once again added, “Those are the things that you won’t hear. You’ll hear that we can’t draw a map. We can’t do these things that are a lot of times silly or nonsense, in a lot of cases.”

The reference to a map is to the Florida Supreme Court ruling last summer that the Legislature violated the state Constitution in 2012 by gerrymandering eight of the state’s 27 congressional districts. A parallel lawsuit regarding the drawing of all forty senate districts compelled the senate to submit a map to a judge who ultimately rejected it, in favor of one submitted by the plaintiffs.

“We have a Supreme Court who is sympathetic to the people who filed a lawsuit. That’s why we couldn’t draw a map,” he said.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.