How about the Sun's agenda?

Published: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 11:45 p.m.
This is in response to your Jan. 11 editorial titled, "Cretul's grand stand." It would have been better titled, "Grand slam of (Republican) Cretul."
It is laughable that the Sun concludes state Rep. Larry Cretul's bill to prohibit state taxpayers' money to fund benefits for domestic partners is purely for political purposes because it is obvious that the Sun's editorial was purely for carrying out its political agenda: "Anything Republican is bad."
The editorial raised several questions. All easily answered.
Cretul's bill has nothing to do with his trust of or his relationship with the University of Florida. Anyone following Rep. Cretul's three-year tenure should know that he believes in holding a tight fist on the state's resources, not just in his district, but for the whole state.
He knows what everybody else should know. When the University of Florida sneezes, all other state educational institutions blow their noses.
While Rep. Cretul says he has no legal objection to UF's using private money to fund domestic partner benefits, he recognizes that soon many other state colleges and universities - including community colleges in Ocala and Gainesville - will likely follow suit and desire to use taxpayer money for funding. None has the supply of private support dollars UF has.
Best example: UF uses no taxpayer money for its athletic programs, but that's not true of others.
Like the University of Florida Board of Trustees and apparently its administration, Cretul does not believe taxpayer funds should be used for domestic partner benefits. His belief is based on the very clear fact that the state does not provide the legal means to do so; thus, that needs clarifying through legislation.
As for Cretul's continuing relationship with UF and the university's with him, the answer is obvious. Rep. Cretul has served UF extremely well as vice-chairman of the House subcommittee on Higher Education and member of the subcommittee on Education Appropriations and as the area's only Republican in a Republican-controlled Legislature.
For example, this past legislative year PECO (utilities tax) funding of $55 million plus for building projects and $11 million for maintenance, repairs and renovations was the highest level received by UF in 15 years. UF lagged far behind in PECO funding for years in the Democrat-controlled Legislature dominated by Democrats from South Florida getting everything they could for their institutions, at the expense of UF.
Also during Rep. Cretul's tenure, the Legislature has given more autonomy to individual universities and their boards than ever before in history. UF has been clamoring for this for years and years.
The Sun's editorial brands as "unfortunate" that Cretul "presumes to establish fiscal contempt of a state constitutional amendment which clearly delegates that to the Board of Governors." Surely the Sun knows the Board of Governors does not appropriate state taxpayer money. That's the Legislature's responsibility.
Another good example of the UF-Cretul excellent relationship is revealed in a Sun newspaper article dated April 21, 2004. It reads, "The University of Florida is poised to emerge from this year's legislative session in better budgetary shape than it has been in years."
Those are the words of the Sun's reporter, not Rep. Cretul, who the subject editorial snidely states, "...and he likes to paint himself as the university's champion in the House."
Rep. Cretul is in Gainesville two to three times a week when he's not in Tallahassee, according to his Gainesville office spokesperson.
Why else would he spend this much time in Gainesville if he were not looking out for the best interests of UF and not maintaining an excellent relationship with the University?
The Sun's editorial also raises a question about Cretul's accepting campaign funds from companies offering domestic partner benefits. A partial answer is in the Sun's Jan. 5 news article detailing Cretul's announcement of his bill.
He is quoted as saying, "The bill is not intended to denounce or discriminate against anyone...Colleges and universities are in position if they wish to use alternate funding for employee benefits."
He is further quoted as saying, "Local government, local control, they only have to answer to their own constituency." It certainly is no stretch to believe he feels the same way about private companies.
Speaking of the Sun's Jan. 5 news article concerning the bill, it is apparent the newspaper uses its news pages to project its political agenda.
The second paragraph noted that Cretul's new district office (in Ocala) is located on a "stretch dotted with large churches." No further mention is made of those parenthetical words of the Sun's reporter.
Does anybody have to guess why the words were there?
Politics? Whose?
Hugh Cunningham is a UF Professor Emeritus and for 12 years was assistant to the president for university information.

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