"Intense voter and legislator interest in cutting property taxes shouldn't keep the state from making headway this year at reducing the number of uninsured children in Florida, Democratic legislators said Friday."
House Democrats, who hold a third of the seats in the 120-member chamber and whose support will be key to the passage of any major tax initiative, are hoping to pass major health care reform legislation during the legislative session that starts Tuesday. They are sponsoring a bill that would ask voters in 2008 to insert a guarantee in the state constitution that all Florida children would have access to health insurance by July 2010."Democrats aim to insure more children".
The legislators said they intend to promote the issue at churches, synagogues and newspaper editorial boards throughout the state during the upcoming 60-day session.
The Real Culprit
It is interesting to read the (well deserved) criticism Rubio is receiving for not appreciating the regressive nature of his proposed tax restructuring; Steve Bousquet today: "One of the many criticisms of the Rubio plan is that the sales tax in Florida is already too regressive.". "Maybe Rubio needs economics class".
The real culprit here is one Donna Arduin, who is apparently leading Rubio by the nose on this. Last year, as the St Pete times editorial board observed,
Donna Arduin, a [Property Tax Reform Committee] committee member who was the former budget director for Gov. Jeb Bush, acts as though fairness is a quaint concept. "The property tax system we have now isn't exactly the opiate," she told members, according to published reports. "Let's not just use the old adage 'regressive' and dismiss it.""Political stunts aren't tax reform". Bousquet has previously noted Arduin's, shall we say ... difficulties with even fellow GOoPers: "Republican Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, called the scene at the hearing on Feb. 6 'surreal,' as if Arduin and lawmakers were in different states." "Red ink blues".
With such flippant discourse, the committee last month agreed to keep the issue alive and undermined their credibility as a competent, realistic panel.
Who is Donna Arduin? She is a principal in Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics ("ALME"). See also "Former aide to governors forming consulting firm". Yes, that "Laffer": namesake of the Laffer Curve, referred to in this New York Review of Books piece by Jason Epstein as "the crackpot theory that led Ronald Reagan to believe that huge tax cuts in federal taxes would lead to federal surpluses, when the actual outcome proved to be a cumulative deficit of $3.5 trillion.") It seems her company is also in the business of attacking Democratic initiatives. See, e.g., "Michigan: Evaluating the Granholm Tax Plan".
Perhaps most importantly, Arduin is a cheerleader for the wingnut Fair Tax proposal to change "United States tax laws to replace the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and all federal income taxes (including AMT), payroll taxes (including Social Security and Medicare taxes), corporate taxes, capital gains taxes, gift taxes, and estate taxes with a national retail sales tax, to be levied once at the point of purchase on all new goods and services." See ALME's "A Macroeconomic Analysis of the Fair Tax Proposal (.pdf)". Donna apparently thinks sales taxes are good and all other taxes are bad.
Not long ago, Rubio actually "hired Gov. Jeb Bush’s former budget director, Donna Arduin, as a $10,000-a-month consultant." "House leader handing out six-figure jobs". Is this really the kind of advisor our boy wonder speaker of the House needs?
Get Ready for the Session
The Tampa Trib editors: "The Legislature convenes Tuesday in Tallahassee where an open-minded governor and revolutionary ideas about taxes herald a session of bold - perhaps reckless - change."
Personable leaders have created fertile ground for ideas to sprout, ideas that in recent years would never have seen daylight. The companionable attitude has raised expectations of a session capable of historic changes."State Lawmakers Raise Audacious Expectations".
The choices may be tougher than expected if revenue estimates continue to reflect a slowing state economy. But at this point, the mood is upbeat. No longer is Jeb Bush enforcing his agenda. New Gov. Charlie Crist is brimming with fresh proposals, but remains open to other ideas and they are arriving faster than they can be analysed. The political wind these days feels more like a whirlwind.
Whose ideas will land on top is, as the session begins, anyone's guess. Much is at stake, especially in insurance, education, and health care, but the top priority is taxes.
The MSM can't help themselves; the Trib editorial includes this passage: "Crist's education plan builds on Bush's success in school accountability and achievement, but wisely aims to take some of the vitriol out of the debate over public schools." To which we ask: precisely what "success in school accountability and achievement" are you talking about? Don't readers deserve more than unsubstantiated, RPOF talking point retreads?
"This might go down as the longest honeymoon. Two months into the job, Mayor Glenn Ritchey continues to garner compliments and praise after answering a call to complete the term of Mayor Yvonne Scarlett-Golden, who died of cancer in December." "Many singing praises of Daytona mayor".
Charlie's Costly Political Stunt
"As legislators prepare an 'anti-murder act' that would put more probation violators behind bars, fiscal watchdogs say Florida's existing "zero tolerance" policy is clogging courts, costing millions of dollars and harming offenders who are trying to go straight." "'Anti-murder' act could be costly".
Tallahassee, We Have a Problem
"Food lines are growing as census data show that more Floridians are falling into extreme poverty." "Extreme poverty on rise in the state".
"South Florida never will find solutions to its crime problem until public officials admit there is one."
Denial and politically motivated distortion only make it more difficult for governments to make the streets safer and reduce the teen violence that has grown exponentially in recent years. West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach are two of the worst cities for violent crime in Palm Beach County, yet people running the cities dismiss residents' complaints and insist nothing out of the ordinary is going on."City officials indulge in criminal distortion".
Privatizing a Public Resource
"The recent attempt to build a water bottling plant in Wakulla County is not an isolated incident, and a bit of context will help us understand this effort to privatize a public resource." "Our water shouldn't be in private hands".
"Federal, state and local authorities are preparing to dispatch boats, planes and hundreds of emergency personnel in a two-day drill aimed at preventing a mass migration to Florida." "Joint drill set to prepare for exodus from Caribbean".
"The homeless crisis in St. Petersburg has come full circle, literally. What started as an unlawful tent city on private property near downtown that was shut down and dispersed to nearby public rights of way, will return to the original spot, where the city will allow 75 tents to be erected for 90 days." "It's time to move past tent cities".
Citizens Committee Shoots a Blank
"After significant prodding, [Broward County] commissioners agreed -- reluctantly -- to form a citizen's budget advisory committee to comb through the budget and make detailed suggestions on where to lay the axe."
Well, this week, after much anticipation, the committee came up with its first recommendation. What were the pearls of wisdom it dispensed after its first round of studies?That the commission ... drum roll, please ... cut spending. For the detail-starved, there was one bit of specifics, that commissioners specifically limit spending to this year's $4.3 billion plan."Taxes".
If they had any great ideas on how to pay for increased medical expenses, standard employee raises, cost of living jumps or the other typical annual increases without growing the bottom line, panel members were silent, and consequently, remiss in the duties they agreed to take on.
Hitting the Books
"Crist on Friday ordered the head of the state prison system to conduct a study of how lethal injection is carried out by the federal prison system and in 37 other states." "Florida to study other systems".
"Before the Florida Legislature has even acted on Gov. Charlie Crist's request to spend $32.5 million to replace touchscreen machines with ones that use optical scan ones, the Department of State continues to move ahead with creating a paper trail." "Department moving on paper trails".
"Florida’s pension fund could have to sell holdings in some companies that do business in Sudan under a bill designed to add pressure on the African nation’s government to end an ongoing genocide." "Lawmaker: Florida money shouldn’t support Sudan government". See also "Bill Would Cut Off Money Headed For Sudan Government".
"Rich Venezuelans, alarmed by Chavez's socialism, head to Florida". Do our immigration laws permit folks who leave off "unearned" income to waltz in?
"Site to list teachers' disciplinary action".
Wexler and Obama
"Sen. Barack Obama, whose image as a novice at foreign affairs has been criticized as a handicap, is seeking to repair his reputation as an advocate of Israel, and is fortifying that effort with an alliance with one of Florida’s foremost Israel backers, Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton." "With Wexler By His Side, Obama Touts Israel Support, Iraqi Disengagement".
"The battle over immigration reform and a new status for illegal immigrants that split the GOP last year isn’t going away. ... It will also put Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, who’s also national Republican Party chairman and a focal point of the immigration debate, in the spotlight."
Martinez told the Tribune recently that he believes there’s a window of time, from now until late summer, when it will be possible to negotiate an immigration bill that will pass the Senate, before election-year politicking makes it impossible. He said he thought chances are 70 percent or better a bill will be passed."Immigration Split Continuing".
Martinez advocates such requirements as paying some back taxes or fines, good behavior and proficiency in English and citizenship, as the price for legal status or citizenship.
Opponents contend that is, in effect, amnesty. Martinez denies that, but also said he no longer believes it’s possible to satisfy those critics.
Time for a Change
"Many political observers were surprised when, during his gubernatorial campaign, Crist acknowledged that the law needs to change. His change of heart, however, isn't shared by Attorney General Bill McCollum, who flat-out opposes automatic restoration of civil rights. The other two Cabinet members -- Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson -- say they're comfortable with automatic restoration for nonviolent felonies, including drug crimes. Crist postponed a discussion of the issue in the Cabinet this week, giving Sink, Bronson and the governor's office a chance to work on language that would be amenable to all three of them. The governor and Cabinet sit as Florida's Clemency Board, and together, Crist, Sink and Bronson could overrule any dissenting vote from McCollum." "When debt's paid".
"Most people blame the decline in Florida tourism last year on a fear of hurricanes, rising gas prices, insurance-spiked hotel rates and the security obstacles facing international visitors since Sept. 11, 2001. But talk to a tourist who spent their precious beach vacation in the middle of a fish kill and you'll hear another factor that's driving away repeat visitors: red tide, the toxic algae bloom that kills fish, turtles, even manatees." "Solve Riddle Of Red Tide Or Tourism Will Drop Even More".
"U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is raising the prospect of physician shortages to the attention of Congress." "To Add Doctors, Lift Cap On Training Slots".
"City voters will do more than choose two commissioners Tuesday -- they'll also decide whether the city should change its charter to give commissioners longer terms and redefine the responsibilities of the city manager and mayor." "Bunnell voters to decide term limit changes".
Unions to Meet Garcia
"South Florida union leaders are invited to meet with the newly elected chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, Joe Garcia, at 12:30 p.m. Thursday." "Come meet Joe Garcia".
Early Primary Faltering?
"Don't bank on Florida moving its '08 presidential primary very early just yet."
The Buzz is that Altamonte Springs Republican Lee Constantine, chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, wants to schedule the primary for mid-February, when the presidential nominations are likely to be already set. The current proposal in the legislature calls for rescheduling Florida’s traditional March primary to Feb. 5 or one week after New Hampshire’s tentatively scheduled Jan. 22 primary, whichever is sooner."Cracks in the early primary push".
William March on the early primary thing: "Tribune: Early Decisions, Fewer Choices".
"Cocoa lobbyist Guy Spearman is another heavyweight in Tallahassee who commands top-dollar." "Lobbyist paid for his clout, expertise".
"We're a little late noting this little squabble, but check out the Politico's recent piece on state Democratic party spokesman Mark Bubriski taking shots at the Sayfie Review's political leanings." "Bubriski v. Sayfie".
And some GOoPers are jumping on Sayfie as well: one Florida daily clipping service is being dissed by network TV analysts and national newspaper journalists for selectively choosing political news that benefits predominantly one side of the political aisle - and in some cases, the proprieter's preferred candidate for office. Fair and balanced? Hmmmm..." "New political mag".