With state legislative sessions across the nation beginning to adjourn at a rapid rate, voters and elected officials alike are taking stock of the economic policies promoted and enacted by conservatives in 2011 – and, in most cases, they are not pleased with the results. Recent polls have shown widespread public disappointment with some of the key planks of a conservative economic agenda that promises more giveaways to corporations and the super-wealthy, and more pain for the rest of us.
November 2010 saw historic electoral gains for conservatives in state legislatures and Congress who had campaigned largely on promises to enact policies that would create jobs. But while economic security remains the central concern for Americans in poll after poll, conservative legislators have spent 2011 sparking public outrage by instead focusing on attacking workers, women, and the middle class. Polls have consistently shown  that voters are feeling significant buyers’ remorse in many of the states where they put conservative lawmakers in positions of power last fall.
In Florida, a poll released last week saw Gov. Rick Scott’s approval ratings dip to 29%, an achievement described by one columnist  as a “dubious feat after only four months in office.” By a staggering 68%-18% margin, respondents said that the recently passed state budget -- which slashed spending on education, eliminated jobs, and included $2 billion  in corporate and property tax cuts -- was “unfair to people like them.” The discussion around taxes appears to be changing as well, as a clear majority of Floridians now think that Gov. Scott should have adopted a more balanced approach to the budget. By a 54%-38% margin, Floridians now say that the Governor should not have made a “no tax increase” pledge -- a stark change from just February when voters agreed with his pledge by a 48%-44% margin.
In Ohio, the picture looks pretty much the same: a public that has quickly soured on the conservative anti-middle class agenda after just six months. A recent poll  of Buckeye state residents showed that a rematch of the governor’s race would result in a 25-point defeat for incumbent Gov. John Kasich, who was just elected last November. The reasons for the public outrage at the Governors’ performance are also clear: conservatives in Ohio decided to attack the middle class and workers this session instead of ensuring economic security and creating jobs. By a 55%-35% margin, Ohio voters support the repeal Senate Bill 5, the legislative attack on the collective bargaining rights of public employees whose ultimate fate will be decided by voters at the ballot box this fall. By a 45%-32% margin, Ohioans support a constitutional amendment that would guarantee collective bargaining rights.
As the public turns against them, some conservative state lawmakers themselves are backing away from their irresponsible and unpopular agenda and denouncing some of the power-grab tactics exhibited by their leadership. Just this week , two senior Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire resigned their leadership positions out of disgust with House Speaker Bill O’Brien’s attacks on workers, with one, House Whip Tim Copeland, saying “I cannot sit by and participate in a leadership team that is bent on destroying the strong labor force and good benefits that we have in our state.” In April, a group of eight Republican state senators in Maine sent an open letter  to Gov. Paul LePage asking him to tone down his strident attacks on workers, stating that “we are not the enemy of labor and labor is certainly not an enemy to us.” And in Alabama, a Republican lawmaker switched parties  last week, saying that conservative attacks on teachers went too far.
State Sen. Dennis Jones (R-FL), commenting on Florida’s recently concluded session, could have been describing any number of states’ sessions when he admitted last month  that “this is certainly not the ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ that the public expected. If we added everything up, we’re probably in the negative this session for jobs, not the positive.”
As the discussions around state deficits and the national debt continue to evolve, job creation and the economic security of their families continues to be the primary concerns  for most Americans. As the economic recovery continues to sputter, responsible efforts to create jobs  and rebuild prosperity  in our states are the real long-term answers to deficits, not an unpopular and reckless austerity agenda that endangers our economic future.
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Sunshine State News - State Budget Sinks Florida Consumer Confidence, UF Says 
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