Our "Intellectual Lightweight" as VP?
"In office for just six months, Gov. Charlie Crist is being touted as a vice presidential prospect."
On the strength of approval ratings that surpass those of even his popular predecessor, Jeb Bush, and his out-front positions on issues ranging from property insurance to global warming, Crist is being sized up as a possible running mate next year and, according to one prominent Republican consultant, as a presidential candidate in 2012."Crist's name popping up for No. 2 slot".
Academics, political consultants and magazines such as Time say Crist is gaining national attention, despite lingering questions over whether he has much understanding of big policy issues ['some dismiss Crist as an intellectual lightweight'] and whether the nation is ready for a bachelor on the ticket.
Finger in the Wind?
Does Good Time Charlie have his finger in the wind?
there's been little real noise from Crist over the past few weeks, with the governor choosing to stay in the background as lawmakers worked toward resolving the tax-cut deadlock."Crist takes low profile on tax cuts". See also "Crist, Rubio among winners of tax-cut plan".
Why? It may be that the complexity of the issue and rising chorus of critics are convincing Crist that the plan to create a super-size homestead exemption will never win the needed approval of more than 60 percent of voters.
"I think he wants to go slowly on this to see how public opinion forms before he comes out for it -- or doesn't if it looks like it's going to lose," said Fort Lauderdale pollster Jim Kane.
"Police and firefighter unions have a lot of political muscle. But tax cuts will test them." "A tough cut for budget ax".
"After months of bipartisan harmony, a divide opened up in the Florida Senate during last week's special session between ruling Republicans and minority Democrats."
But an even uglier Senate wound appears to have closed."GOP harmony again".
A little over a year ago, Senate Republicans split into warring factions, when conservative senators united to overthrow the expected Senate president-designee, moderate Sen. Alex Villalobos of Miami, and replace him with Sen. Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach.
The bad blood between the two sides endured, occasionally flaring up in committee and floor fights that derailed difficult legislation.
Then came last week's property tax session.
"Rock-Bottom World of Higher Education"
"Vastly different leadership styles exist in Florida's rock-bottom world of higher education. The Board of Governors, dignified and installed by the state constitution, meets and meditates over its authority and options, but it never takes the bull by the horns." "Universities ready to stop squeezing, start cutting".
The Tampa Trib editors continue the trend of parroting League of Cities talking point pap:
The same state lawmakers who accuse cities and counties of overspending are quietly forcing local governments to pay ever-higher retirement benefits for public employees.Their solution? Talk about "unbelievable":
The required payment for the state pension fund increased about 10 percent for cities and counties this year, par for the course. Over the past six years, the amount local taxpayers owe the Florida Retirement System has increased 63 percent.
The most generous pensions are going to first-responders, mostly paramedics, police and firefighters. Almost every year, their unions convince Tallahassee politicians to make it easier to qualify for disability pensions. If they get high blood pressure, for example, it's now assumed they were disabled in the line of duty.
It is unfair that taxpayers, most of whom have no pensions and little savings, are required to buy public employees an ever-increasing lifetime income."Lavish Pensions Decreed By State Add Galling Irony To Tax Breaks".
Remember that public pensions began as a perk to compensate for the low pay of most government jobs. But in recent years, public salaries have caught up and in some cases, zoomed past pay in the private sector.
Indeed, government jobs are beginning to look like the best jobs in our economy because they pay well, it's hard to get fired and they offer health and pension benefits unlike those in the private sector.
If the Florida Legislature really wants to save money for taxpayers, they should focus on reforming a retirement system that's gotten out of control
Members should start by eliminating free pensions for newly hired government workers. Instead, they should offer a 401(k) retirement program similar to those offered in the private sector.
If 401(k)s are good enough for taxpayers, they're good enough for public servants, too.
What garbage: do the editors really believe that "public salaries have caught up and in some cases, zoomed past pay in the private sector." To be sure, the salaries for working people in this low wage, service industry state are low to begin with and have stagnated in recent years; but public sector salaries haven't "zoomed" anywhere.
Here's their brilliant solution (in reality tired League of Cities/Chamber talking points): "offer a 401(k) retirement program similar to those offered in the private sector." You know, a program where the employer may or may not contribute a few pennies (and can reduce or cease their contributions), and workers have zero guarantee as to what their retirement income will be (like the Enron retirees).
What They Did
"Florida lawmakers passed two major pieces of legislation Thursday to cut property-tax rates. Here's a look at each:" "Prescription for Tax Relief".
"The constitutional amendment goes to the polls on Jan. 29. If it passes, homeowners then have a decision to make. Take the new exemption? Stick with Save Our Homes?" "Save Our Homes: Keep It? Drop It?".
"Legislators have put a tough choice in voters' hands: Cut taxes to save money, but risk cutting too much and possibly degrading local-government services." "Tax-fix plan offers pains, gains".
"As Floridians consider drastically revamping their tax system over the next seven months, they will hear plenty of advice to just say 'no.'" "Plan for tax relief reform has many enemies, but who will be for it?".
"What about us? That's the reaction from business groups hoping for the same kind of tax relief lawmakers offered homeowners this week in Tallahassee." "Businesses: Boost tax cuts".
"Richard Lerner gets $1.2-million-plus as CEO of Scripps Research Institute, which Florida taxpayers have backed in a big way. His ties to the corporate world make him even richer." "Scientist tycoon". See also "Lerner's early ties to tobacco proved lucrative".
"Overall, 39 percent of the Florida women surveyed picked Clinton over her seven male opponents, contributing to her 20-point lead. She was the top fundraiser in Florida during the first three months of the year, and three of her top corporate contributors were businesses run by women. Clinton will try to widen the gender gap even further when she comes to Miami for a June 30th 'women's breakfast' hosted by prominent female politicians and Democratic donors." "Clinton sets sights on women voters".
State Funded Religious School?
"Charter schools are publicly funded and privately run with limited oversight by school districts. They have more freedom over curriculum than traditional public schools, yet must not teach a religion. The debate caused one Broward School Board member to demand stricter scrutiny of Ben Gamla [Charter School]. ... It will operate on about $360,000 of taxpayer money. Critics say the school, especially when marketed to Jewish and Israeli communities, signifies one thing: a free religious school." "Critics: Hallandale charter school oversteps church-state line".
Could It Be The Immigration Thing?
"Apparently Florida Republican politicians understand better than the GOP presidential candidates the importance of courting Hispanic voters. Gov. Charlie Crist, Sen. Mel Martinez, and state House Speaker Marco Rubio plan to address the National Association of Latino Elected Officials convention at Disney World, June 28-30, but every Republican presidential candidate declined the organization's invitation." "Courting Hispanics".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board complains that "It's disappointing that the state Department of Education's staff so quickly caved in to pressure from schools that want to gut Florida's school-accountability standards. After all, Gov. Jeb Bush has been out of office only six months ...". "Stick with winner".
The editorial board is apparently being led by the nose by "Jeb!" lapdog Mike Thomas who writes today that
since Jeb left office, we have witnessed the de-Bushing of Florida."Students doing better, but don't get complacent".
And now I wonder if his most sacrosanct legacy -- education reform -- is heading for the chopping block.
A lot of local school officials would like to see it. Jeb ruled over them with a sword, demanding they raise student test scores and punishing those who failed.
He constantly increased standards, keeping the creaking education bureaucracy on the precipice.
It was like throwing premium gas in an old Studebaker and cranking it up to 120 mph. Smoke came pouring out of the engine, the wheels wobbled and the people inside began screaming to slow down. ...
But with Bush gone, a movement has begun to relax the standards and loosen the pressure.
"Every divorced guy would love an ex-wife like Barbara Gomez. As the chief of Miami's public housing agency, she helped funnel more than $1 million in city contracts to companies employing one of her former husbands." "We should all have an ex like this one".
"More Speculative Than Sure-Fire"
The Tallahassee Democrat editors observe that in "the afterglow of last week's special session on the property-tax crisis, the relief may begin to seem more speculative than sure-fire." They review the two prongs to the property tax "reform": taxpayers "can choose whether to stay in the shelter of their 3-percent cap or be tempted out of it by what will almost surely be a lower tax option in the first years- but one that may not hold up as the best bargain in years to come when inflation and growth naturally occur."
The second prong of the reform - which lawmakers unilaterally put into effect for the 2007-08 fiscal year - includes a rollback and cuts that local governments must implement - except for "financially distressed" cities and counties. On a statewide average, the break should be $174 for homesteads, $944 for commercial property and $199 on nonhomesteaded residences."Tax tales". See also "Super-sized savings? Property tax cut may not mean big bucks for everyone".
These reductions will feel good to property owners while the bloom is still on the rose, but local governments were also given authority to override them by two-thirds' or unanimous votes and, chances are, most local bodies pass their budgets almost unanimously most years anyway. This bow to local government was a responsible one, but it's not the safeguard desired by voters who absolutely, positively want local-government tax reductions - and are comfortable to risk reduced local services.
Whether there is a long-lasting effect of this "largest tax cut in Florida's history," remains to be seen. It may just last until lawmakers supporting it are safely re-elected, and then they can face the consequences of this complex package of instant-gratification legislation.
"While Florida lawmakers think they passed revolutionary property tax reform, what they might have done is put a property tax revolt into high gear." "Revolt in the air over tax reform".
Save Our Homes Survives
"In the midst of last week's property tax debate, Sen. Daniel Webster said what few others dared to say."
Save Our Homes, the wildly popular law that keeps tax assessments on homes from rising too fast, "is a failed experiment, " he proclaimed. "It has hurt our economy and it's going to hurt our future.""Plan's survival turns on Save Our Homes".
But a few hours later, in a chilly budget office on the second floor of the state Capitol, Webster set out to save Save Our Homes.
Promising to give Save Our Homes a future was the only way to get approval for the homestead exemption program Webster and others in the GOP hope will replace it.
Lawmakers rewrote Florida's homestead exemption law Thursday, but because of that final compromise, nobody in Florida has to use it. Anyone who wants to keep Save Our Homes will be free to do so, even if their tax bills would be lower with the new plan.
In the end, Save Our Homes proved more powerful than the Florida Legislature.
"As Florida Democrats try to escape punishment from the national party for busting the established primary schedule, a sob story is emerging:"
How can the mean ol' Democratic National Committee punish beleaguered Florida Democrats for the Republican-controlled legislature and governor deciding to move the presidential primary so early in violation of committee rules?"Dems say 'not us', but Dean knows better".