"The day began with the House making an offer that astonished the Senate by increasing the gap between the total tax cuts in the two plans."
"This issue is not about splitting the difference," said Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. "This issue is about a measure of tax relief our citizens need.""Crist offers property tax plan". See also "Senate Leaders Uneasy On Property Tax Swap" and "House asks for deeper prop tax cuts, Senate warns: they're not kidding" (The House proposal also cuts to hospital districts, children's services council ans water management districts, which previously had been exempt from the tax roll cuts. The only thing protected from cuts continue to be school districts. ")
After the Senate increased its proposed tax cuts from $12 billion to $15 billion over five years Tuesday, the House responded Wednesday afternoon by hiking its proposed cuts from $44 billion to $47 billion.
"Under pressure to weigh in on the property tax debate, Gov. Charlie Crist outlined a plan Wednesday to cut $33.5-billion over five years without increasing sales taxes."
The plan includes a rollback and cap on local government, doubling the $25,000 homestead exemption and allowing people to transfer Save Our Homes benefits to new homes."Governor's proposal has rollback, portability, no sales hike".
"Some (lawmakers) have come to me and said, 'A little more guidance from the executive branch might not be a bad thing,' " Crist said.
Two hours later, his two-page proposal was circulating in the Capitol.
"Instead of replacing resident homeowners' tax bills with a higher sales tax, the governor wants to roll back tax rates for all property owners by $3.9 billion this fall. Crist's office estimates that would deliver an average of $340 relief to homeowners this year and $1,987 over five years."
Next year, he wants to double the homestead exemption to $50,000 - or even triple it by a local option election."Crist proposes tax compromise". "Under the plan, the average homeowner would save $340 the first year, growing to as much as $1,700 by the fifth year, Crist's staff said." "Crist offers tax-cut compromise". See also "Crist offers own version of tax plan", "Crist's property tax plan" and "Crist proposes plan that would cut 12% from property tax bills in first year".
The rollback would amount to $27.2 billion over five years. The plan also includes a statewide election to create Save Our Homes portability that would phase in over three years and boost the total five-year tax reduction to $33.5 million.
Besides allowing longtime homeowners to take their Save Our Homes discounts with them when they move, Crist wants to give a 25-percent assessment discount to first-time homebuyers.
Senate Finance and Tax Chairman Mike Haridopolos said Crist's new plan closely resembled where the Senate wanted to go.
"But Crist's plan, delivered to legislative leaders by his staff, had little immediate effect. House and Senate members remained at a standoff late Wednesday after three days of meetings."
''We're farther apart than we were before,'' grumbled Rep. Jack Seiler, a Wilton Manors Democrat, after a late-night negotiating conference dissolved in discord."Crist: Meet halfway on taxes". See also "And with that, we stand adjourned" ("Webster acknowledged the stalemate but flashed a smile and said: 'Yeah, but I think they're going to drop like a rock.'") and "Crist seeks compromise on property tax relief" ("Crist needs House and Senate leaders to get along, and that seems unlikely as billions of dollars and dogmatic differences made agreement difficult.")
The only agreement: They will meet again today -- though they didn't even set a time.
Here's a look at the personal dynamics underlying the dispute: "Tax swap runs into words of caution" ("the political paths of Rubio and Webster are intersecting in dramatic fashion over property taxes.") The Rubio-Crist relationship isn't faring well either: "Rubio told listeners on Spanish-language radio in Miami Wednesday night that he was 'upset with the governor' for proposing a property tax plan earlier in the day that doesn't reduce taxes enough." "Rubio fires back at Crist on radio show".
And where was Charlie during this eventful day? "Crist took his efforts to drum up public support for a property tax cut on the road again Wednesday, this time drawing 100 real estate agents, landlords and second-home owners who said local governments need to cut their spending." "Crist rallies for property tax cut plan". And here's a taste of Crist's advocacy skills; for those "county and city government officials who want to tell Gov. Charlie Crist that cutting property taxes will mean fewer cops and fire fighters - don’t bother." Charlie's careful crafted disputation: "'Nobody’s going to do that. That’s insane.'". "Crist Calls It “Insane”".
While Tallahassee dithers, the St Pete Times editors offer this advice: "Five steps to sensible property tax relief". The Sun-Sentinel editorial board contends "Crist ought to advocate rolling back property taxes now, and leave the more complicated matters to the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission." "State Revenue".
The Orlando Sentinel editors observe that "negotiations between the Senate and House on two wildly different tax-cut plans have gotten nowhere. They do little to fix inequities in Florida's property-tax system, which gives longtime homeowners a big break while their new neighbors pay much more for the same services. Nor are they closer to preventing local governments from enjoying huge spikes in their budgets simply because of a run-up in property values, as Florida has seen in the past four years."
Crist is also insisting that homeowners be allowed to take their low property-tax assessment with them when they buy new homes. That would result in even more people paying disproportionately low property taxes."Go halfway".
Just as we feared, leaders are slamming together a tax-cut plan that will impact Floridians and reshape city and county budgets for years to come.
That's not good leadership. The House, in particular, would rush a plan before voters to eliminate most property taxes on homes and raise the state sales tax.
"Legislature: Day 32 at a glance". See also the Miami Herald's "Legislature" update. "Time's running out, bills are dying, but chambers still dawdle".
"Rep. Tom Feeney has insisted for years that he didn't know convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff paid for their luxury golfing trip to Scotland in 2003."
But an e-mail obtained by the St. Petersburg Times on Wednesday shows that Abramoff's office sent specific instructions on how to report the trip expenses to a handful of people, including Feeney's congressional assistant.""E-mail details false trip data". See also "Feeney paid far less than Scotland trip was worth, documents show".
On a related note, The Buzz reports:
Jason Roe, Rep. Tom Feeney's former chief of staff, abruptly resigned from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. It came after the St. Petersburg Times reported the FBI was seeking an email Roe sent the newspaper about Feeney and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff."Roes in the spotlight for different scandals".
Roe's wife, Patricia, did some fundraising work for Feeney before becoming chief of staff to Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Arizona. Last week, federal investigators raided Renzi's wife's office in a scandal unrelated to Abramoff. This week, Renzi resigned from his House committees.
Meanwhile, "Republican leaders stand behind Feeney".
Early Primary Punishment
"Not only will Florida be punished if it moves up its presidential primary before Feb. 5, but any Democratic candidate who steps foot in the state will be too, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said Wednesday. ... The Republican National Committee has threatened to take similar actions if the primary is moved before Feb. 5." "Dean says early primary will cost state party".
But It Is Not A "Tax" Increase
"Tens of thousands of students who expect free tuition at three of Florida's largest state universities under the Bright Futures scholarships would have to pay additional tuition -- as much as $1,000 a year -- under an overhaul plan moving through the Legislature." "University tuition increase proposed". See also "Proposals to Increase Tuition".
The Tampa Tribune editors: "For as much as he gets right, Gov. Charlie Crist is wrong to believe that Florida universities best serve citizens by maintaining the lowest tuition in the country." "Crist Should Set Moon-Shot Goal To Raise Prestige Of Universities".
" Unregulated Insurance Companies"
"Unregulated insurance companies could sell Medicare supplemental coverage in Florida under legislation being questioned by Gov. Charlie Crist." "Senate decides to reconsider measure on Medigap plans". See also "Senate decides to reconsider measure on Medigap plans".
The Hill: "Shocking news out of Florida! Nearly nine months after Rep. Robert Wexler (D) said that cocaine and prostitutes are fun things to do, someone wants to take the lawmaker’s job. Imagine that! No one in the political world has forgotten Wexler’s comments to Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert last summer, especially Democrat Ben Graber, who announced last week he is challenging the sixth-term incumbent in the 2008 primary." "Wexler cocaine comment may haunt him" (via Naked Politics' "Is the joke on Wexler?")
"Blamed for improper cost estimates and for hiding numbers, the agency serving develop- mentally disabled people is in crisis -- and the most needy might pay the price." "Agency for disabled people falls into 'crisis'". More: "Home care at risk".
"Soto's victory means Democrats have picked up eight House seats since last year. The Republicans still hold a 78-42 majority." "Darren Soto sworn in to Florida House". See also "Another Democrat in the House" ("Just under 10 percent of the district's 77,188 voters cast ballots in the race, which means it's hard to draw any sweeping conclusions about which party could be making inroads with Hispanics (who make up half the district's voters).")
On The Cheap
"If Florida is aiming this year to lower the quality of its public universities, politicians are on the right track. Former university chancellor Charles Reed once used Latin to describe what he viewed as the state's attitude toward higher education: Humiles sumus et quoque superbi, or, 'We're cheap, and we're proud of it.' His motto fairly characterizes this year's effort so far." "Too cheap for too long".
"A popular hurricane mitigation program [My Safe Florida Home] may offer half as much grant money or about four times as many free hurricane inspections in coming weeks, depending on what the state Legislature decides." "Changes To Storm Grants In Wind". See also "Relief bill gets House panel OK".
"After two terms of Jeb Bush in the Florida governor's mansion and two terms of George W. Bush in the White House, abstinence groups have gotten a big funding boost and entrée into public schools."
And what has it gotten us?"Best way to stop abortion is honest sex education".
More abortions than ever in Florida and Broward.
"T. Willard Fair, an ally of former Gov. Jeb Bush, is the new face of opposition to proposals like one championed by President Bush to allow undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship." "Activist opposes amnesty push".
"Scaled-down back-to-school sales tax holiday"
"Florida parents of schoolchildren may sense the state's budget pinch this summer after the Legislature's Wednesday approval of a scaled-down back-to-school sales tax holiday." "Legislators scale back school sales tax holiday, schedule it for Aug. 4-13". See also "Sales tax holidays returning" and "Sales-tax holiday approved". On a related note, "Shoppers may get more breaks".
"Former Gov. Jeb Bush got a prime-time endorsement for president in the little-noted fictional character demographic. Eccentric and lavishly conservative Denny Crane -- played to the hilt by William Shatner on the ABC drama "Boston Legal" -- Tuesday declared his preference to occupy the White House in 2008. 'Jeb!' Shatner's Crane exclaimed." "Denny Crane! endorses Jeb!"
Charters Not A Good Choice?
FCAT scores: "Most of the charters did not fare as well. The passing rates among charter school students - 72 percent for elementaries, 83 percent for middle and 73 percent for high schools - are well below district and statewide percentages." "At charters, scores on FCAT produce cheers, frustration".
Paid Sick Leave ... Oh, The Horror!
"In Washington and Tallahassee, a handful of politicians are proposing new laws that would require many employers to provide six weeks of paid sick leave for their workers." The less than surprising response from folks who don't lose a penny when they happen to be sick (after all, "Sick leave is a fairly common benefit in white-collar work environments, but it's much harder to find in service industries, such as hospitality, retail and food service, which are major employers in Florida") is the usual whining:
business owners and advocates are gearing up to challenge the proposals, saying they would hinder profits, productivity and entrepreneurship.Is it really the end of the world as the Chamber of Commerce types would have us believe?
- According to "The Work, Family & Equality Index," released this year by the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University, at least 145 countries provide paid sick days. Of these countries, 136 provide at least one week's worth of paid sick leave.In Florida,
- The National Partnership for Women & Families, a nonprofit organization that supports paid sick leave for American workers, says 48 percent of all full-time private sector workers have no paid sick leave. The group says lower paid workers are most affected: nearly 80 percent of all low wage workers have no paid sick leave, and 41 percent of all workers with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line have no paid leave whatsoever. ...
Outside the United States, paid sick leave is customary in industrialized nations. In Germany, for example, workers receive up to six weeks of paid sick leave a year.
Sen. Frederica S. Wilson, D-Miami, has introduced the Healthy Workers, Healthy Family Act, which calls for 6½ days of paid sick leave for full-time workers at companies with 10 or more employees, and 3¼ days for workers at smaller businesses. Workers would be able to use their paid sick leave to take care of family members."Sick Pay Debate Intensifies".
Wilson said her bill is a "win-win" for workers and employers.
"It's clear that everyone, at some point in their working career, has a bout with sickness - or has a bout with family sickness - and they have to be absent," Wilson said.
If sick employees come to work, they may become sicker or contaminate other workers, she said. However, many times those employees must go to work "because they can't afford not to come to work," she said.
Wilson's message to critics: "Everything is a burden in life, but as you work through this process and you assure these people are really sick, and not taking advantage of it - which we know most people will not - we don't think it will be such a big burden."
"Worried about nonnative reptiles that are establishing their own colonies in Florida's welcoming hot climate, state lawmakers are about to establish a $100-a-year license that would be required for anyone owning a 'reptile of concern' that could hurt the state's environment or humans if it gets loose." "Nonnative lizards, snakes a worry for state".
Don Can't Help It
"House: Illegal immigrant children should be eligible for KidCare". See also "House-approved KidCare plan would revamp, simplify process". "Among those voting against the bill: Rep. Don Brown, a Republican from DeFuniak Springs, who didn't like that the bill extended coverage to illegal immigrant children." "Don Brown and illegal immigrants, Part 2".
Tallahassee ... We Have A Problem
Even columnists who profess that "it feels good to kill some people" recognize the Florida's system of killing human beings has problems:
The Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit group that tracks capital cases, lists 123 death-row inmates who were pardoned, had their conviction overturned, were acquitted at retrial or had all charges dropped, dating back to 1973. Twenty-two were from Florida."Death penalty sometimes goes dead wrong".
It raises the question of how many innocent people have been executed. Given Southern justice and defendants of color, rest assured the answer is more than none.
On a related subject, "Florida has seen its share of high-profile exonerations after the Legislature provided for DNA testing in cases that appeared to have been resolved. But state officials haven't delved into the circumstances behind those convictions. Look at exonerations, and a clear, disturbing pattern emerges." "Innocents under lock". And then there is Mr. Crotzer. "The state took away 24 years of Crotzer's life -- put him in prison for rapes he did not commit."
There's no way to give him back his youth, but the state can and should compensate him. The $1.2 million sum proposed seems miserly in contrast to the great injustice done."Wrongly convicted, restored".
But even more pitiful is the Legislature's refusal to spare the dignity of wronged innocents like Crotzer, by stalling legislation that would make compensation automatic for those found to have been wrongfully convicted. ...
There are no clear fingerprints on the knife that gutted the compensation bill, but one thing is obvious: Some lawmaker or lawmakers have cause to be ashamed.
"Senate Conference Room Named For Jennings".
"Sen. Bill Nelson is planning a trip to Sudan in May, his Washington office announced this afternoon." "Nelson planning trip to Sudan".
"The Florida House unanimously passed an energy bill Wednesday that would provide sales tax exemptions for the purchase of hybrid vehicles and require state and local governments to construct energy-efficient buildings." "House unanimously approves energy bill". See also "Energy bill passes House unanimously", "House bill gives tax breaks for being green" and "House OKs tax break for hybrids".
"Once again, money for the $1.37 billion cleanup of the Indian River Lagoon seems tantalizingly close. But with the Bush administration opposing the Water Resources Development Act, which the U.S. House just approved 394-25, the project still is far from certain. In March, a Senate committee approved a similar bill, which awaits approval by the full Senate." "Keep Everglades promise".
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Boot camp death: Pay up".
"Funding for a $1.5-billion coal-gasification plant stalled Wednesday after the sponsor of a Senate bill submitted a sweeping, last-minute amendment critics fear could harm the environment." "Tampa Electric's bill stalls".
"New standards for Florida's public school students were given tentative approval Wednesday in the state House, but the bill's outcome in the Senate was less clear. A top priority of House Speaker Marco Rubio, the bill would require additional training for teachers and more foreign language classes for students, while other measures would be set by the state Board of Education." "House passes new criteria in education".
"Florida's top auditor is taking issue with claims by interim Florida A&M University president Castell Bryant that she never requested an internal review by the school's inspector general, who was later fired." "FAMU audit takes issue with interim president".
"With the regular legislative session ending next week, it appears as if retired state workers, even more than those still actively employed by Florida government, are like Rodney Dangerfield."
They can't get any respect from lawmakers, despite having a champion who does get respect from Republicans and Democrats alike."Discards".
Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, was hopeful early this year that legislation he and Rep. Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island, are sponsoring to modestly raise health-insurance subsidies for state retirees would get a fair hearing from their colleagues and perhaps even pass.
Now it appears that Mr. Lawson, a seasoned legislator and longtime supporter of state employees, was engaged in wishful thinking.
Who can blame him for his earlier optimism? After all, a new wind seemed to be blowing in the Capitol, with a new governor who professes reverence for public service and a different tone in the political conversation.
Charlie Hearts Dems
"Crist accepted an invitation to meet with House Democrats on their turf Wednesday, offering further evidence of the changed political atmosphere in Florida." "Charlie and the Democrats".
"As Gov. Charlie Crist continues to support the state's insurance commissioner, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is pushing to broaden an investigation being conducted by her office." "Insurance chief faces broader investigation".
Another "Jeb!" Legacy
"A former regional director of Florida's prison system was sentenced Wednesday to two years and seven months in prison for his role in accepting $130,000 in kickbacks from a contractor." "Prisons director gets 31 months".
Adam Smith: "McCain seeks a fresh start".