Jerry McDaniel will leave his job as the budget director for Gov. Rick Scott at the end of this month. He'll be replaced by Cynthia Kelly, who by all accounts is about to become the third person _ and first woman_ to have ever held the budget director job for the House, Senate and governor.
McDaniel, whose background is in accounting, holds a somewhat unique position: He's someone who worked for Gov. Charlie Crist and then managed to maintain his position in the administration of Gov. Rick Scott. (McDaniel briefly was planning to exit the governor's office during the transition, but he wound up staying.)
McDaniel is leaving state government now because he has to. He signed up for the state's optional retirement investment program which requires employees to leave within five years of enrollment.
In a brief interview earlier this week, McDaniel said that if he could he would have liked to have remained working for Scott for his entire first term.
And that means McDaniel isn't gliding into retirement.
McDaniel is currently working with Kelly _ who started in November _ on Scott's final slate of budget recommendations during his first term. A key component of those 2014-15 budget recommendations will be Scott's push for $500 million in tax and fee cuts. Scott is announcing today in Tampa that he wants the biggest chunk of that tax/fee cut package to go to rolling back auto registration fees that were approved by the Legislature in 2009 and signed into law by then-Gov. Crist.
To be able to have some sort of budget surplus to work with is a bit of a new phenomenon for McDaniel. He recalls that upon immediately entering office that Crist's initial budget recommendations in 2007 were considered somewhat unworkable because the economic forecasts for the state were quickly changing.
It was McDaniel who helped shape a series of state budgets during the time the Great Recession battered the state's economy. He was there when the Crist administration accepted billions in federal stimulus in order to balance the state budget - and he was there when Scott rolled out an initial budget in 2011 that called for huge tax cuts as well as a large cut to education spending. Scott of course would later recommend bolstering education funding, including pushing for a $1 billion boost this current year that included money for teacher pay raises.
When asked he said he enjoyed working for Crist while he was governor. But he also was very praiseworthy of Scott, saying that the former health care executive is very hands-on and likes to engage in-depth conversations about budget policy.
McDaniel adds that Scott encourages debate among his own staff about policy suggestions.
As for Scott's eagerly-awaited budget recommendations, McDaniel gave a few insights.
He did concede that with this year's current estimated budget surplus that repeating a $1 billion boost in education spending and cutting taxes and fees by $500 million is unlikely.
But McDaniel was quick to point out that there is still enough money to boost per-pupil spending in the fall of 2014.
McDaniel also noted that local property values are rising _ and with it property tax collections _ meaning that the state is not going to have to backfill money to help keep school district budgets stable. In the last few years part of the increased state funding has gone to replace lost local dollars.
"Everything is turning in the right way for the 14-15 budget,'' McDaniel said.