My New Year’s Resolution for Florida
As we head into 2018, I know I will join most Floridians in setting New Year’s resolutions. Whether it is striving to be healthier, taking time to disconnect, or learning a new skill, we all have one.
And this year, as our local state legislators head back to Tallahassee in 8 days, their time in our Capital will be done before we know it.
The weeks and months ahead could be one of the most transformative in Florida’s recent history. A group of partisan, unaccountable appointees are proposing amendments to our state’s constitution; nearly every local and state office is up for election; and there are pieces of legislation that could fundamentally alter our state’s trajectory for decades to come.
With all of this in mind, I have began to wonder: what are our elected leaders’ New Year’s resolutions? Because, for nearly two decades, Florida’s Republican-led government has made our state near last in the country for affordable homeownership and rent, healthcare, wages, salaries, transportation, education, and more.
In 1999, was their New Year’s resolution to turn our classrooms into factories? Because that’s the year they began overwhelming our children and teachers with overtesting that has proven to be unnecessary at best.
In 2003, was their New Year’s resolution to devastate funding for critical healthcare needs? Because those living with HIV and AIDS in Florida saw a massive cut to vital funding, resulting in Florida now leading in new HIV/AIDS cases when compared to any other state in the country.
In 2010, was their New Year’s resolution to make nursing homes less safe? Because that year Republicans rolled back safe staffing standards that were put in place to protect the most vulnerable of us living in Florida’s 683 nursing homes.
In 2011, was their New Year’s resolution to make our roadways worse? Because they rejected billions that year in already allocated federal funds that would have began to relieve the traffic on our highways.
In 2013, was their New Year’s resolution to punish Florida’s working families? Because that was the year they refused over $60 billion of Floridian’s hard earn tax dollars, sending it to other states.
In 2017, was their New Year’s resolution to make it harder for families to afford to live? Because last year, and for the 10 years before, our state leaders took over $1.2 billion meant to help with housing affordability and instead used it to fill non-vital parts of the budget.
This year, the Republican leadership’s New Year resolution must be to mock workers, as they continue to do nothing to raise the minimum wage, while items like housing, childcare, and other everyday necessities rise at alarming rates. All the while they are focused on ripping apart worker’s rights on the job.
If we have learned anything in the last 20 years, it is that the decisions we make will have lasting effects for years to come. It is beyond time for our representatives in Florida to focus on the issues that matter to all of us — regardless of political party affiliation, influence, and socioeconomic status.
No one who works full time should live in poverty. Teachers and non-instructional staff should not have to make up the difference from their own wallets and paychecks when our government doesn’t properly fund our children’s classroom. The rate of “starter home” availability for first time buyers should be higher, in addition to the need for more affordable rent. And, our roadways shouldn’t be so dangerous that some highways continue to stay the deadliest in the nation. It is time for a new Florida.
My resolution for 2018 is to demand our leaders work for a new, better vision for Florida that works for all and not just the powerful few. If we don’t demand a direction and vision that reflects who we are and what we need in this moment, the next 20 years will be more of the same and keep Florida dead last.
Alphonso Mayfield is the President of the Florida Public Services Union SEIU, representing over 20,000 workers across Florida. As a union leader and community activist, Mayfield is a known advocate of economic, racial, and social justice.