"For the first time since talks collapsed at the beginning of the month, Florida lawmakers met Monday to try again to cobble together a plan to cut property taxes across the state." "Property-tax talks focus on wide gulf".
"The Republican chairmen of the Joint Legislative Committee on Property Taxes, Sen. Dan Webster of Winter Garden and Rep. Dean Cannon of Winter Park, lauded their agreement to give homeowners a super tax exemption and said they've narrowed down how to do it to three options."
• A tiered approach that gives homeowners a percentage tax break based on the value of their homes. For example, homes with a market value of $600,000 would pay taxes on 30 percent of the first $200,000, 40 percent on the next $200,000, and 10 percent on the last $200,000."Three property tax plans considered". See also "Three percentage-based property tax relief proposals in works", "Lawmakers eye county-by-county tax reform", "Homestead exemption facing changes" and "Tax-cut idea: Link exemption to percentage of home value". Troxler: "5 musts for tax reform".
• A flat percentage exemption on all homesteaded property regardless of the value.
• A percentage based on the median value in each county. Under this option, homes could be taxed at 50 percent of the median value in a county, for example.
Meanwhile, "On taxes, counties try to speak as one". The Orlando Sentinel noted yesterday that "Tax reform is field day for lobbyists".
Florida's "Hub of Election Controversy"
"Confirming Palm Beach County's status as a hub of election controversy and ceremonial burial ground for out-of-favor voting systems, Gov. Charlie Crist visited West Palm Beach on Monday to sign a bill that bans nearly all paperless electronic voting in Florida. The legislation also seeks to put Florida in the national spotlight for something other than election meltdowns by making the state's 2008 presidential primary one of the earliest in the nation. The new Jan. 29 primary date has drawn the wrath of traditional early-primary states and the national political parties." "Paperless votes scrapped; state's '08 primary to be one of earliest". See also "End of a ballot era: New law changes the way we vote".
"Get ready to see a lot of Rudy Giuliani in Florida. As Gov. Charlie Crist on Monday signed a bill making Florida one of the earliest presidential primary states, Giuliani was already gearing up to take full advantage. " "Giuliani's primary goal: Florida".
"The University of Florida will be the only state university charging freshmen a new tuition add-on fee this fall to help pay for more faculty -- if the proposal becomes law." "UF would go it alone for now on tuition fee". See also "5 reasons a tuition hike makes sense".
"Florida drops farther behind in help for disabled"
"The idea behind creating a separate agency for Floridians with disabilities was noble, focusing attention on people long underserved."
"The unkindest cuts".
But the execution verges on the ignoble. Lawmakers have never fully funded the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and former governor Jeb Bush turned it into a proving ground for his privatization experiments. This year, the agency's budget went from bad to worse -- with a 16 percent funding cut, cookie-cutter caps on services and no provision for more than 13,000 people currently on a waiting list for help.
"The Florida Legislature ended its annual session without achieving its No. 1 goal: reducing property taxes. Legislators did, however, vote to increase property taxes by $546 million. It happened because of the way Florida allocates money for schools. The new state budget, effective in July, increases spending on education and orders local school boards to charge higher property taxes to pay for it." "After promising cuts, legislators actually hiked property taxes in spring session".
"Nelson said he's troubled by the temporary worker program that would provide 400,000 visas a year for workers coming to the United States to meet labor needs. He said he was concerned that the temporary program could 'start to create the very problem we're trying to overcome now. That suddenly they get here and they disappear and they're illegal.'" "Nelson voices concerns".
The Miami Herald editors: "The compromise immigration bill that the Senate is debating this week isn't what we would have prescribed to address the nation's labor shortages and millions of illegal workers. Still, the bill engages a needed discussion about immigration -- and it creates a chance for reform." "Senate opens door to immigration debate".
Yesterday: "Sen. Mel Martinez, pilloried by conservatives in his own party, went on CNN Sunday to defend the immigration accord that he and other Republicans reached Thursday with Democrats and the White House." "Martinez defends immigration measure".
"One of the more interesting ideas floating around Tallahassee nowadays calls for making sure that none of Florida's retirement fund is invested in "sin stocks" and other allegedly naughty moneymakers."
The idea's not completely wacky. We could probably all agree, for instance, that we'd rather not invest in a company that has anything to do with the genocide in Darfur. And Darfur is one example cited by state Rep. Andy Gardiner, the Orlando Republican who is pushing for the portfolio review. Also pushing: Kissimmee Republican Frank Attkisson."Are they 'sin stocks' only if pols don't cash in?".
But Gardiner also suggests that gambling companies are sinful.
And so the slippery slope starts.
"Up and Up"
"Gas prices continue on the up and up".
"Florida will be the most populous - and politically costly - state with a January date." "Governor signs early primary bill into law".
"Education On the Cheap"
"When Gov. Charlie Crist describes himself as "the people's governor," he's usually arguing to cut taxes or lower homeowner-insurance rates in the admirable effort to make the average Florida family's dollar stretch a little further. But as much as cutting taxes and keeping costs low are part of his DNA, Mr. Crist will do the people great harm if he cuts too deeply when it comes to the state's crowded, poorly funded university system. Florida's college students simply can't get a great education on the cheap." "Quality matters".
Charlie's Kinda Girl
"She's blond. She's tan. She's a mother of two, a former beauty queen who auditioned for NBC's Fear Factor by eating a live earthworm and hiding four lizards in her mouth." "No fear in dating the governor".
Daniel Ruth on the Cable Thing
"In theory, the new regulations will permit cable companies to pursue statewide licenses offering television, Internet and TV services, ostensibly bypassing historically local municipal control. And, of course, the bill signing also dragged out that old saw about how these new rules will create competition and thus a Brigadoon of stellar customer service. Which we all know will eventually amount to a Matterhorn of hooey." "Cable TV Still Tunes Into Frustration".
All In The Family
"Orlando Republican Rep. Steve Precourt is lending a helping hand to Damon Baxley, the son of Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who is looking to succeed his father in the Florida House." "Central Florida Rep. Helps Baxley's Son".
Selling Florida's Infrastructure
The Tampa Trib editorial board: "Florida lawmakers were smart to place tight restrictions on the sale of taxpayers' highways to the highest bidder. Under the final version of the new transportation bill, Florida could lease the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and a few other toll projects to private operators, but the contract would have to be approved by a legislative committee, which guarantees an open process with plenty of debate." "Florida Right To Move Slowly In Leasing Roads To Investors".
"It is an opportunity Gov. Crist did not expect, but it is one he can use to transform the most important public agency in South Florida."
The new governor now will appoint a majority of the South Florida Water Management District's nine governing board members, who represent areas and interests throughout the district's 16 counties. The governor's first choices have been: Eric Beurmann, a Republican lawyer with business experience and environmental credentials from Miami-Dade County; Charles Dauray, a west coast developer who has held leadership positions with the local, state and national Izaak Walton League of America; and Shannon Estenoz, a Broward County resident, civil engineer and Everglades expert."Water policy shake-up is Crist's, if he wants it".
Those choices alone help to balance a board that under Jeb Bush had no credible environmental representation. But Gov. Crist still must name a board member from Palm Beach County after Kevin McCarty's resignation. The unexpected resignation of Lennart Lindahl also opens a spot for a Treasure Coast member.
Rumors abound that Gov. Crist will appoint Patrick Rooney Jr., from the family that owns the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Palm Beach Kennel Club, which Mr. Rooney manages. Mr. Rooney has been active in private school and children's activities. While those are good community causes, they are not qualifications for the water district board.
At Least We Don't Have An Intangibles Tax
Yesterday: "Florida has spent $2.4 billion in public funds and 20 years cleaning up leaky fuel-storage tanks, the kind that gas stations use, the kind that can ruin a water supply. Even so, all that effort has fixed only a third of the problem. The to-do list still includes nearly 13,000 known spills, making Florida No. 1 in the nation in contaminated sites, according to a recent report by the federal Government Accountability Office." "Fuel-spill cleanups plague Florida".
"Congress should follow Florida with optical-scan voting machines." "Make every vote count".
"A conservative government watchdog group releases a report today on how well lawmakers did crafting a $72 billion budget. Florida TaxWatch holds a 9:30 a.m. press conference to announce what it considers to be budget 'turkeys.'" "TaxWatch targets budget 'turkeys'".
The Best He Could Do
"A two-for-one shot from Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer this morning, with Hillary Clinton in South Florida and Gov. Charlie Crist signing the elections bill that moves up the state's presidential primary:" "Greer: Dean Should "Come Clean" on Primary Threats".
"The lion's share of state tax dollars raised by Broward's slot machines will never find their way back to Broward County. In the budget year that starts July 1, state officials are estimating that the Las Vegas-style slots operating in three Broward casinos will raise more than $223 million for education projects in Florida." "Most profits from Broward slots will benefit schools elsewhere in Florida".