Charlie's (Empty) "Metaphorical Flourishes"
"So with a new, two-piece package through the legislature, Crist abandoned all restraint with his metaphorical flourishes last week."
"I think it will fire up our economy. Florida is like a thoroughbred and ... she's been held back," he said moments after signing two new laws on the matter. "We'll have an opportunity to get this engine going again, fire this baby up and make sure that this economy will not just boom, but have a sonic boom. I believe that will happen, and that will benefit the treasury, and the people again.""Crist's tax-cut 'boom' panned".
But will it? Can the rollback in city and county taxes and - if voters approve on Jan. 29 - a much larger homestead exemption "fire up" the state's real estate market enough to make up as much as $6 billion a year in lost revenue, as Crist has frequently suggested?
That is doubtful, according to economists both inside and outside state government.
The legislative staff analyses for the tax measures do not mention any increased tax collections that might offset the reductions.
"It's not feasible," said Bruce Nissen, a Florida International University professor and director of its Center for Labor Research and Studies. "It doesn't make sense.
Even Randall Holcombe, a Florida State University economics professor who said he generally accepts the idea that cutting tax rates increases economic activity, said it doesn't seem likely that the cuts will lead to the flood of documentary stamp tax collections from real estate sales as Crist suggests.
"Florida voters have more reason to pay attention earlier than they have in decades because the state is set to hold one of the first primaries. In 2000 and 2004, the presidential nominations were all but clinched by the time of Florida's March ballot and barely one in five voters turned out. Next year, Florida voters will go to the polls Jan. 29, the earliest of any big state scheduled so far. In addition, the Legislature recently voted to put a big tax cut issue on that same ballot, and a number of local governments around the state are looking to add municipal elections to the same day." "Early or not, 2008 is on voters' minds".
Dems Claim "'Republicans Giving Up On Latinos'"
"When 1,000 Hispanic elected officials and community leaders from across the country gather in Orlando later this week, they'll hear from seven major Democratic candidates for president, but none of the major Republican candidates."
"Republicans Giving Up On Latinos" was the headline on a Democratic Party news release about the event. The release called it a "sign of conceding the Latino vote in Florida to Democrats," and noted that in 2006 Democrats won the Florida Hispanic vote for the first time in 30 years."Latino Event Not A GOP Draw".
Leaders of the association say they're disappointed.
But some Florida Republicans, who acknowledge they would prefer that their candidates show up, scoff at the idea that GOP-oriented Florida Hispanic voters suddenly have converted or that the presidential candidates are giving up on them.
The reason the candidates aren't coming, said state Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, is that NALEO, even though it's nonpartisan, "absolutely is a Democratic-oriented organization - just because most Hispanic elected officials outside Florida are Democrats."
"The state Legislature -- prodded by Gov. Charlie Crist -- did the right thing by mandating paper ballots in every Florida county. And it included money to help finance the switchover for counties that opted for touch-screen equipment. But some counties say the amounts authorized by the state aren't enough. And supervisors in others are looking for loopholes that might allow them to keep using touch-screen machines, at least during early voting." "State and counties dawdling over replacing touch-screens".
Bill Cotterell: "As probably everyone in Tallahassee knows by now, the House and Senate strained mightily to come up with a $1,000 one-time salary additive for state workers, in lieu of a percentage pay raise for the 2007-08 fiscal year. ... The bottom line? $673, after taxes. That's less than $13 a week in take-home pay."
And speaking of pay hikes and bonuses and our legislators, did you know that members of the House and Senate will get a 3-percent raise next week?"A bonus isn't much, but you can make it more »".
(We'll pause here so those who just crumpled up the paper and hurled it across the room can retrieve it. Back with us? Good.)
"U.N. officials on Monday removed the Florida Everglades and another site from a list of world cultural sites at risk". "Florida Everglades removed from world heritage danger list".
"Florida prison officials say lethal injections give inmates a 'humane and dignified death.'" "Panel's recommendations on executions don't satisfy foes".
Local Budget Cuts
In WPB, "Police, fire take flak, but other budgets swell, too".
"Crist has been somewhat of a disappointment"
The St Pete Times editorial board yesterday: "He has been governor for less than six months, so it's a little early for any kind of definitive assessment of Charlie Crist's leadership. But I think we can say that Crist's record so far has been a mixed bag, with more to applaud than to criticize."
Most voters are showing no sign of buyer's remorse. Crist's approval rating is above 70 percent, and even Democrats, who have some major policy differences with this Republican governor, like working with the guy. He has made surprisingly good appointments and has shown a strong commitment to open government, consumer interests and environmental protection. The political debate seems more civil since Crist arrived in Tallahassee, largely because of the St. Petersburg native's style and persona. Charmin' Charlie makes it almost impossible not to like him."On the big issues, much still to do".
So yes, after eight years of Jeb Bush, Crist is a refreshing change. He bills himself as "the people's governor, " and he plays the role brilliantly. He is no policy wonk, micromanager, cultural warrior or ideologue. However, for all of his strengths, on some of the biggest issues facing Florida - hurricane insurance, property tax relief and the needs of higher education - Crist has been somewhat of a disappointment.
"Water utility managers are concerned about red ink in their future as South Florida lawns turn brown under tough watering restrictions. South Florida utility managers are reporting significant drops in water usage - and revenues - since a drought triggered strict water restrictions in April. West Palm Beach, for example, has lost about $500,000." "Water restrictions drain utility revenues".
"Federal HIV/AIDS funding drops in South Florida — again"
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Either the federal government is clueless to South Florida's status as a national epicenter for the AIDS epidemic, or it just doesn't care."
How else to explain why this region just saw its federal Ryan White Program funding for uninsured HIV and AIDS patients drop, for the second year in a row? Broward County's grant fell from $15 million last year to $13.1 million, and Palm Beach County is getting $7.7 million this year, down from $8.3 million last year and $9.5 million the year before."Public Health".
Those numbers are going in the wrong direction, especially considering the local population of HIV/AIDS patients is rising, not falling.
Because of the cutbacks, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Bob LaMendola reports, thousands more South Floridians with HIV and/or AIDS will have to do without vital services like nutritional counseling, substance abuse treatment, pain therapy, transportation and other assistance that helps make their lives more livable.