Tom Blackburn today: "By most measures of fairness, predictability and efficiency, Florida's tax system is a mess and needs reform."
Rep. Rubio would have the voters eliminate the property tax on homesteaded homeowners like me. As explained last week, property taxes are out of whack for two reasons. First is the cozy security blanket in which the 1992 Save Our Homes amendment wrapped longtime residents like me. Second, housing prices and, therefore, home values have been inflated, which mostly hurts people not as well protected by the amendment."The purpose of a tax is to be cut?"
The inflation problem should sort itself out as markets return to something nearer sanity. The amendment remains as a souvenir from the wedding of greed and folly. But the speaker wouldn't take so much revenue from the counties without giving something back. He would give them some of the sales tax the state collects - not enough to make up their losses but enough, in his opinion, for their needs, and to show that he is a nice guy.
County commissioners won't need 30 seconds to smell bait-and-switch. First time the state needs money for itself, the Legislature will take it out of the counties' rebate. In addition, to get the money to send the counties, Rep. Rubio would raise the sales tax from 6 percent to 8.5 percent, more even than it is in Massachusetts and California.
Not to worry, Rep. Rubio says. Your property tax break will more than make up for the higher sales tax. His plan, he says, is more than revenue-neutral; it's a tax cut even with a higher sales tax. We'll see about that after the dueling analyses are all out. As for myself, it looks as if I would make out like Halliburton in a Bush administration.
Love for Sale
"Phone and cable companies, HMOs, utilities and insurers tipped the scales of special interests that poured at least $93 million - and as much as $253 million - into influencing Florida government last year." "Loads of cash influence policy". See also yesterday's "Times: Price of sway in capital: $200M" ("That's how much state lobbyists took in last year - the first time they had to report it.")
On a related note, Lucy Morgan reported yesterday: "A year ago state legislators boasted that they were making it possible for Floridians to "follow the money" that gets spent in the state Capitol whenever laws are made. For the first time, lobbyists would be forced to disclose their fees. Anyone with a computer and access to the Internet would be able to follow the trail of how much businesses paid their lobbyists." "On the Web, but it's not easy surfing".
Rubio and Pruitt
"Florida may be too small for Rubio." "Rubio at House's helm with "100 Ideas" and global outlook". See also "Rubio Unplugged" and "Son of immigrants trumpets people's agenda".
- "Senate President Ken Pruitt portrays himself as a listener and peacemaker — unlikely to push too hard for any agenda in a body he describes as a 'master carpenter' that puts the finishing touches on legislation." "Cautious Pruitt promises calm, unifying session in Florida Senate".
Bushco's "Special Insult to Florida"
"In its latest attempt to loot the nation's safety-net hospitals, the Bush administration offers a special insult to Florida." "Cold-hearted Medicaid cuts".
"The commission examining last year's botched lethal injection execution will recommend a handful of changes to Florida's death row procedures this week, but will leave the hardest questions about the death of convicted killer Angel Diaz unanswered." "Panel: Conflicting evidence limits answers in execution inquiry".
From the "Values" Crowd
"Jobs program for elderly on chopping block".
Invisible No More?
"Long relegated to the back rows of the Florida House, Democrats will be closer to the front when it comes to the debate over property taxes this spring. The reason is the Republicans will need their votes to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this year." "Democrats will have key role in debate over tax overhaul".
Jebbie's Former Efficiency Expert Speaks
Bill Cotterell thinks that "Crist needs an efficiency czar like Bush's" He explains:
She was former Gov. Jeb Bush's efficiency expert for a few months in 2001. She quietly quit, largely because Bush and his true believers were so blindly enamored of privatization that they wouldn't listen to her or - more important, in Sykes' view - to employees affected by "big, hairy, audacious goals," as Bush called his ideas.Read the column here .
Bush made Sykes his $95,000-a-year director of efficiency and enterprise development about two weeks after the Department of Management Services put out a "request for information" on privatizing personnel services. And get this: Sykes thought People First was headed for trouble!
The 20-year Air Force veteran, who retired in Niceville, also had this odd notion about trusting the troops.
"As I told the governor, people have the answers, your employees have the answers," she told me at the time. "They know where the waste is; they know where the problems are. They will help you if you let them, if they have the motivation to help."
What state employees had under Bush was fear.
"It's that time of the year again". "Education".
With Jeb Fans Like This ...
"Freshman Sen. Don Gaetz, the new chairman of the Senate Education Committee, raised eyebrows in the state Capitol last month when he publicly blasted a top Department of Education official over Florida's teacher-bonus plan."
Gaetz, after all, is a fan of former Gov. Jeb Bush, a former superintendent from conservative Okaloosa County and a die-hard supporter of school accountability. Under his watch, the 30,000-student Okaloosa district shot from 27th in the state in student performance to No. 1, earning kudos from Bush and DOE."Gaetz sat down recently for an interview with St. Petersburg Times staff writer Ron Matus. Here are excerpts:" "He wants results, not more red tape".
So how then did Gaetz come to view DOE - Bush's DOE - with enough venom to say: "God forbid, if I ever start talking like, looking like or acting like the Florida Department of Education, somebody needs to take me out to the woods and shoot me in the leg, so that I bleed slowly and die painfully."
Time for Charlie to Follow Through
The Tampa Trib editors: "Felons who repay their debt to society should not be made permanent outcasts from society. Gov. Crist has given them hope. Now he should follow through." "Restore Felons' Rights After Debt Is Paid". The Orlando Sentinel editors chime in: "A promise worth keeping".
See also "Giving ex-offenders a chance to make good" by Mark R. Schlakman, the program director for the Rethinking Restoration of Civil Rights in Florida Project at Florida State University's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights.
Howard Troxler: "Good grief! Enough of these secret witnesses, and vein-missing needle inserters, and anonymous executioners making decisions on the fly, and the whole we-didn't-see-nothin' culture." "Executions too secret, too loose"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Change could be looming in Cuba, but the Bush administration's policy toward the island still sounds like a broken record. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez recently told lawmakers and business leaders who were seeking a softer stance toward Cuba that the administration won't relax its trade and travel sanctions. That's its policy, and it's sticking to it. Never mind that this approach has failed for 48 years to topple Cuba's communist regime." "Fidel's best friend".
"Grad rate may boost FSU funding".
"George LeMieux - a chief-of-staff otherwise known as the 'Maestro' has won a National Pollie Award from the American Association of Political Consultants. LeMieux, who orchestrated Charlie Crist’s successful governor’s race, was named 'Most Valuable Player.' " "".
"While most governors were accompanied to the dinner by their husband, wife or child, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist brought along chief of staff, George Lemieux. (What happened to the woman he was supposedly seeing?)" "Bon Appetit".
"Over the years, Florida's state-run detention centers have become more like junior prisons. "
Meanwhile, the real work of rehabilitation is being accomplished in a mostly privatized system made up of non-profit agencies focused on children's welfare and built to suit their needs. ..."Juvenile offenders".
Unfortunately, the Legislature has gradually starved these programs of money, by the simple expedient of not granting cost-of-living increases. Using figures calculated by the state Department of Juvenile Justice, it should cost programs roughly $198 a day to run a typical secure facility for teens -- but the state only reimburses $153 a day. Programs make up the shortfall by cutting staff or transferring from other budget areas, but can't always make funds stretch.
Last year, the Legislature acknowledged as much, providing $21 million to "stabilize" the system. But programs are still turning away children they can't afford to serve, or paying key staff so little that they sometimes moonlight at department stores or restaurants.
Tim Nickens: "Created by the Legislature two years ago, the Century Commission hasn't received much attention. That's understandable, given the blur of study commissions and task forces. And this commission, unlike constitution revision commissions and taxation and budget reform commissions, can't bypass the Legislature and put issues directly on the ballot for voters to decide." "Century Commission has Florida's future in mind".
Argenziano Out of PSC Running
"State Sen. Nancy Argenziano, a Crystal River Republican who has a reputation as a thorn in the side of utility companies, was rejected by the nominating panel assigned to name candidates for two positions to the state's utility board, the Florida Public Service Commission."
Some of those who made the cut: Philip Nowecki and Jeremy Susac, two candidates whom Crist appointed to the post on a temporary basis after rejecting Bush's nominations; former Sen. Lesley Miller, a Tampa Democrat and former Democratic leader who served with Crist in the state Senate; Stephen Stewart, a former lawyer in the PSC's public counsel office; Joe McGlothin, a lawyer now serving the PSC's public counsel's office; Pat Wiggins, a utility lawyer; Bev DeMello, director of the PSC's consumer affair's office; Michael Palecki, a former PSC commissioner; Kevin Neal, former aide to a PSC commissioner; and Manny Arisso, a lawyer."Argenziano doesn't even get interview".
The Tallahassee Democrat editors: "Florida lawmakers need to make a course correction in KidCare, making the paperwork less onerous and spending the recommended $4 million of this $70 million insurance program for outreach to families of children who most need it." "Health help".
"Advocates for Florida men wrongfully imprisoned for decades before being exonerated by DNA evidence hope to pass a law to monetarily compensate them for their lost years." "Cleared inmates seek 'debt'".
"Gov. Charlie Crist and Rep. Robert Wexler are talking about taking a trip to Israel sometime in the near future. The possible Israel trip was a topic of conversation when Crist and Wexler had dinner Saturday night at McCormick & Schmick, a pricey seafood restaurant, while Crist was in Washington for the National Governors Association." "Crist and Wexler to Israel?".
"Real courtrooms aren't supposed to be like The People's Court. One is about dispensing justice, and the other is about entertaining TV viewers. Unfortunately, the spectacle put on by Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin in the Anna Nicole Smith case suggests he can't tell the difference." "Probate circus". See also Randy Schultz's column yesterday: "A lurid story meets an odd Broward judge".
Over the Week End ...
You may have missed some of these articles, columns or editorials relating to Florida Politics:
- "Extreme poverty on rise in the state".
- "Lawmakers facing tight budget year as Florida economy cools".
- Steve Bousquet reminds us about the good ole 1950s and 60s in Tallahassee, including such things as the "yellow river code". "Colorful days are gone - for good".
- "Crist has ambitious agenda for his first full legislative session". See also "Property taxes, insurance among top issues for Florida lawmakers".
- "A ban on all gifts and meals from lobbyists and legislators has not shut down freebies for Florida lawmakers." "Lawmakers still get freebies despite tougher rules". See also "No coffee, but stay at waterfront resort just fine" ("Here's how it works: Lobbyists give to the Republican Party, which picks up the tab.")
- "Insurers Should Let Doctors In On Big Drop In Malpractice Claims".
- CD 13: "Voting machines worked". See also "State: No problems with Sarasota voting machines".
- "Karen Unger, who managed Jeb Bush’s reelection campaign, has been named as the Florida “senior advisor” for Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign." "Unger Advising Giuliani".
- Property tax proposals: see "Cities lament property tax relief plan", "Sure, tax plan is bold, interesting -- but is it also doomed to flop?", "Tax cut may hit services hardest", "Treasure Coast cities shudder at revenue rollback", "Local leaders say proposed tax overhaul 'irresponsible'", "Herald-Tribune: Another era, but the same anger" ("Florida is facing the same tax frustration that fueled California's Proposition 13"), "Tax deal could be tough to sell" and "Speaker criticizes Crist plan".
- "Lawmakers to revisit teacher performance pay".
- "State lawmakers have these ideas ready to deal with property insurance". See also "Despite special session, some Florida insurance issues remain unresolved" and "State lawmakers have these ideas ready to deal with property insurance".
- "Executioners need more training, Florida panel says".
- Adam Smith writes that "the Hillary Clinton campaign insists Florida is a top priority for the Democratic front-runner, and it's rather personal for the Clintons. Bill Clinton to this day is peeved he didn't carry the Sunshine State in 1992 (he did in '96) and that he didn't spend the final stretch of the campaign in Florida." "Bill still burns over loss, so Hillary will be here".
- "Green light ahead for red light cameras?". See also "Lost priority".
- "For the Broward County Democratic chairman, Bill Richardson’s presidential campaign has meaning far beyond how well the New Mexico governor fares against better known 2008 rivals. Richardson represents two important growth targets for the party, said Mitch Ceasar: He is Hispanic and from a Western state once considered solidly Republican." "Richardson’s Hispanic roots separate him from Democrat pack". See also "Democrats eager to seize presidency; Party leaders positive about 2008 election".
- "Another era, but the same anger; Florida is facing the same tax frustration that fueled California's Proposition 13".
- "PSC won't include critic Argenziano".
- Congressional Quarterly: "Sunshine State Rising".
- "Crist wants Everglades restoration to have focus to the north of Lake O".