"Lawmakers are being warned they likely have less money to work with than previously expected as they begin writing the state budget for the coming year, putting many programs that rely on state money at risk." "Lower tax collections in Florida dim budget prospects". See also "Rubio: Budget News Could Get Bleaker Still".
House to Announce Radical Tax Plan
"The Republican-controlled Florida House is expected today to unveil a dramatic proposal to overhaul the state tax system that would free homeowners from paying property taxes in favor of a higher sales tax." "Higher sales tax headed for debate".
Under the plan, which must be approved by voters in a constitutional amendment, homeowners would no longer pay any property taxes whatsoever. Owners of commercial properties and non-homesteaded homes would continue paying all local-government property taxes, which would be capped and scaled back to 2001 or 2002 levels -- before the real-estate market boomed and local government spending skyrocketed."Tax switch could bring relief, pain". See also "Plan would erase tax on homesteads, hike state sales tax" and "House to unveil bold tax concept".
The plan, which House Speaker Marco Rubio called a ''starting point,'' could lower property taxes across the state by more than $12 billion. But it's fraught with unknowns and potential perils.
In addition to making Florida's base sales-tax rate the highest in the nation -- California is now the highest, at 7.25 cents per dollar, the proposal would shift even more of the sales-tax burden to businesses. Businesses, which pay about 40 percent of sales taxes now, could see shoppers cut down on spending or head to other states or the Internet. The poor would see a disproportionately higher amount of their wages pay for government.
And it could lead to higher federal income tax payments, because people would lose the property-tax deduction that they now receive. Though state sales taxes are currently deductible, that deduction will end after next year.
The locals ain't happy. See e.g., "Locals Push Back Against the Capitol's Tax-Cutting Charge". See also "Reduction in property taxes would hurt schools, officials say".
In "Homeowner tax relief has costs", we are reminded of the inequities of the current tax structure:
Bob McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, conducted a 2003 analysis that showed Florida's tax system was the second-worst in the country in terms of the burden paid by lower income residents.All of which suggests that the House will go along with the plan.
McIntyre also said the state's elimination last year of the intangibles tax paid largely by millionaires has only made the system more unfair, and that raising the sales tax would make it even worse with wealthy homeowners receiving huge tax breaks and lower-income renters receiving little.
"Taxes will go up on the low income and the middle income and go down on the upper income," said McIntyre.
Yesterday's New York Times: "Speculation has been growing that Jeb Bush ... will join his sister, who is known as Doro,[Bush’s sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, is planning to be co-host of a fund-raiser for Mitt Romney], in making Mr. Romney the Bush family favorite this election season. Several of his former aides have joined the Romney campaign." "And Jeb’s Candidate Is?" (via Naked Politics)
Stupid Is ...
"What is it about Congress' outrage last year over the proposed sale of national forest lands that the president didn't understand? Unbelievably, President Bush's 2008 budget includes the sale of 300,000 acres, including 973 in the Ocala National Forest." "Public sell-out".
Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, the "sponsor of a bill that would require girls entering middle school in Florida to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer said Tuesday he plans to change his bill so that it would take effect a year later." "Cancer vaccine start put off year".
"A yearlong red tide bloom in 2005 spurred state lawmakers to more than double spending for research on the problem to $5 million a year." "Legislators call for red tide funds".
"As Congress moves toward requiring a paper trail for elections nationwide, lawmakers must be able to separate fact from fiction."
On Friday, the state expects to complete its report on mock tests of Sarasota's system. The results of a state consultant's review of the system's electronic brain, its source code - denied to Ms. Jennings at trial - is expected in March. The GAO, which conducts investigations for Congress, probably will want to view the source code as well."Follow that (paper) trail".
That's a good idea, if Congress is going to take the major step of mandating what systems states and counties must use. About half the states require a paper trail for electronic voting, but in testimony before Sen. Feinstein's committee, senators were warned that printers can be unreliable, causing more problems than they cure.
Mr. Buchanan has taken his seat in Congress, but Ms. Jennings maintains that machine error cost her the election and is appealing the trial court's source-code ruling. That level of uncertainty is prompting Congress to make voting systems stand up to the test of Sarasota before 2008, when a president will be elected and the stakes will be much higher.
"Florida is the most dangerous state in the country for the homeless, with 48 attacks last year, about one-third of all attacks registered nationwide, according to an advocacy group's report released Tuesday." "Florida reported one-third of all attacks on homeless in U.S., group says". See also "Homeless attacks up in '06".
"Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped in Liberty City, as Florida draws candidates earlier than ever before." "Clinton makes early bid to court black voters". See also "Clinton Swings Through Tampa, South Florida For Fundraisers", "Clinton Collects Money In Closed Tampa Event", "Clinton attacks White House on economy, health care" and "Clinton campaigns in Miami’s black community".
Subsidizing Charter Schools
"The Miami-Dade School Board made a bad call in approving an expansion for a popular charter-school operator after the board's own auditor found 'questionable practices' in the operator's dealings with Mater Academy, one of South Florida's largest charter schools. Those practices could cost taxpayers millions of dollars." "Wrong to ignore dubious practices".
"Audubon of Florida took a courageous stand last week when the environmental group complained about flaws in the South Florida Water Management District's report to state legislators on Lake Okeechobee's pollution problems."
The district's response, which came through board member Mike Collins, was to accuse environmentalists of generating "insulting" news coverage about the district. Then, the board approved the report 7-0."Clean up the numbers on Lake O pollution".
Instead, the board should have listened to Audubon's Paul Gray, who monitors Lake Okeechobee issues. Mr. Gray pointed out that the district's report underestimates the amount of phosphorus in the lake. The report doesn't include statistics from 2004, when three hurricanes crossed the lake. Runoff from the storms boosted phosphorus levels to 938 metric tons. The district figured its baseline calculations for the lake's average pollution on measurements made from 1991 to 2000, ignoring the record pollution generated between 2001 and 2005.
"Don't worry, left lane lingerers, you won't be accused of inciting road rage this year. Senators on Tuesday killed a bill that would have required drivers to move out of the left lane if they are approached from behind by a speedier driver." "Panel's split vote kills get-out-of-lane bill". See also "Legislature faces bills from pets to religious symbols".
"Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings, both of South Florida, say they're backing the two-term New York senator for the Democratic nomination." "FOH".
"Vern Buchanan is once again working the district hard while Congress has the week off. The Longboat Key Republican cranked up a 12 hour day today, holding a pair of press conferences here and in Fort Myers talking about red tide in the morning. Later he's off to Arcadia to attend the Peace River Valley Citrus Growers annual meeting on Tuesday night." "Buchanan working the district".
"The Republican Party of Florida now says a presidential primary debate to be aired live on Fox News in October won’t come with a $100,000 price tag for the candidates." "A Free and Open Debate".
"The Florida Marlins may finally be heading to their new home and may not draw a throw. No opposition surfaced Tuesday to legislation that would give $60 million in state money to build a half-billion dollar, retractable-roof baseball park in downtown Miami for the club." "Bills on Marlins stadium issue sail through 1st Senate committee". See also "Legislative committee approves $60 million toward Marlins stadium in Miami" and "Marlins have shot at park".
"Crist, concerned about lyrics of the state song that are widely viewed as racist, is inviting proposals from a legislative leader." "Senator 'On Very Good Path' To Replace State Song".
Romney on the Air
"The [Romney] ad is set to air starting today and will be shown in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Florida."
The 60-second spot describes the former Massachusetts governor as a ''business legend'' who ''rescued the Olympics'' and "turned around a Democratic state.''"Romney hopes ad is boost". See also "TV Ads? Already? For Romney, Yes".
"At the Society of the Four Arts' lecture series in Palm Beach Tuesday, Danforth told a nearly full house that he's also a moderate Republican who now finds that much of what he once took for granted about his party has been tossed aside in favor of political expediency." "Ex-senator appalled by nation's divisive politics".