"Schools start this week in a state of financial uncertainty. Not only are the budget increases passed by the Legislature in March not what they appear to be on the chalk board, but the property-tax cuts it mandated for most cities and counties are indirectly and adversely affecting public schools."
Now those schools -- along with community colleges and universities -- are being asked to slash millions from their budgets because of a dramatic projected drop of $1.5 billion in sales taxes and other revenues. And they won't know exactly how much until the Legislature meets next month to slice $1.1 billion from the $71.5 billion general fund budget."Back to the cutting room".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "The easiest $147.5-million that lawmakers could cut from public school spending this year is the one item Florida's headstrong Board of Education wants off the table. The board's resistance reflects its obsession with teacher performance pay and speaks to the kind of ideological trap lawmakers need to avoid next month. ... Legislative leaders at times seem willfully blind to that simple math, and the Board of Education now seems blinded by its commitment to the education legacy of Gov. Jeb Bush." "Cut merit plan, not classrooms".
You Go, Girl
"Sink identified a variety of middle management jobs from her department with no impact to the public, and other privatized positions that would cost taxpayers significantly less if they went on the state payroll." "State identifies $52 million in easy cuts to fix finances".
Greer is as Dumb as a Sack of Hammers
Scott Maxwell: "At a recent Mitt Romney campaign appearance, Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer told the crowd that, 'Any Republican, any day of the week, is better serving in office than a Democrat.' Now, ignoring questions about folks like Mark Foley, it's kind of amusing to note what Greer did next (without any apparent sense of irony): praise Charlie Crist for his concerted efforts to put partisan politics aside."
"Giuliani plans second date to woo Pinellas".
"But now comes the reality check"
Mike Thomas: "It's no wonder Charlie's positive poll numbers exceed 70 percent."
But now comes the reality check. Now we see if those numbers are sustainable or, like the inflated 2005 housing prices, destined to deflate.There's much more:
Florida's phenomenal job growth is slowing and unemployment is rising. Tax revenues are evaporating. State agencies are coming up with 4 percent cuts in their budgets, and being told to prepare for cuts of up to 10 percent.
Soon you will be hearing about poor sick kids being turned away at hospitals and criminals being turned loose in the streets.The bottom line:
Charlie's promise to support smaller K-12 classes, a hugely expensive proposition, will collide with deep cuts in the education budget.
You have not heard a lot about all this because it's still in the mulling-over phase. But soon enough, the blood will flow in Tallahassee.
And the bleeding could continue through much of Charlie's first term.
Rare is the political leader who can dissociate himself from a bad economy.
And then there's a tax amendment on the ballot next year that could cripple local budgets. Charlie backs it, which will put him at odds with police, firefighters and teachers.
All this does not bode well for his popularity. And that is his force field."Everyone loves Crist -- at least for the moment".
His political support is like Lake Okeechobee, wide, shallow and vulnerable to drying up fast.
The politicians in Tallahassee are not loyal to him. They are only mindful of his poll numbers.
The Democrats slap him on the back like he's one of them, which he practically is. But ultimately they want his job, which means when weakness shows, the bayonet goes in.
Last week the Democrats e-mailed out a column written by Republican fundraiser Sam Rashid calling Charlie a shameless shape-shifter willing to assume whatever form is necessary to promote himself.
If Charlie's poll numbers go down, conservative bayonets also come out, probably paid for by Big Sugar.
Charlie has no core support. His base is his approval number.
And if that takes a big hit, he could become a very lonely governor.
"Politicians sweating their shorts"
Scott Maxwell: "There still seem to be more questions than answers surrounding last week's indictment of former state Rep. Sheri McInvale. What we know is that the arrests involve accusations that she misused public money in connection with mailings -- though if prosecutors are going to start getting zealous about that, there should be a whole mess of local politicians sweating their shorts. So the jury's still out on that one. Still, one noteworthy observation about this case is that neither political party jumped into the fray with indignant accusations about the other. And there's a good reason for that. Because, in their case, prosecutors have cited alleged incidents in 2005, when McInvale was a Democrat, as well as 2006, the year she switched parties to become a Republican."
"On Saturday, Evans and dozens of other people who have been convicted of less-serious felonies, joined in a workshop to start the process to restore their civil rights. The workshop, at the Greater Union First Baptist Church in DeLand, was aimed at helping ex-felons restore their right to vote, serve on juries, run for public office, start a business and qualify for better jobs." "Workshop helps ex-felons restore their civil rights".
At Least They Get The Summer "Off"
"Many Florida teachers are losing a layer of legal protection that some say they wouldn’t teach without. As part of sweeping budget cuts, the Florida Legislature eliminated the state Educators Professional Liability Insurance Program, which protects teachers if they lose a lawsuit or face a hefty settlement." "Fla. teachers lose liability insurance".Allen and Siplin
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio was right to strip state Rep. Bob Allen of his leadership position and remove him from serving on any legislative committees. Yes, Mr. Allen deserves his day in court for his misdemeanor arrest on sex-solicitation charges. But Mr. Rubio correctly surmised that the arrest and Mr. Allen's racially charged comments afterward destroyed his effectiveness. If only the state Senate would show such common sense. Sen. Gary Siplin was convicted of a felony -- using taxpayer money to pay campaign staffers -- and is allowed to serve while he appeals. Not only did he keep his committee assignment, he was named vice chairman of the Education Appropriations Committee." "Embarrassment 2".
The No-Fault Mess
"Crist and state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink have stayed out of the fray. There's little for the different interest groups to gain by tangling with the Legislature when there is no clear solution or agreement and the competing interests are numerous. Consider:"
• Chiropractors, doctors and pain-treatment centers want to keep much of the current personal injury protection system, called PIP. For a decade, they've fought plans to cap fees and the number of treatments, which have helped jack up costs."Whose fault is no-fault mess?". Alex Sink writes: "Prepare for no-fault's end".
• Big auto insurers, led by State Farm and Allstate, have fought to kill PIP, saying there's so much fraud in places like South Florida that some call Broward County's seat ''Fraud Lauderdale.'' Scrapping the system, they say, will lower rates by as much as 16 percent and could help more people buy affordable insurance.
• Trial lawyers also have resisted capping their fees to limit lawsuits. The end of the no-fault system helps some attorneys if more people will need to go to court -- and therefore hire a lawyer -- to prove who's at fault.
• Health insurers, consumer groups and hospitals want some replacement system so they don't have to pick up the cost, especially for expensive emergency-room care. The trial bar has also pushed to replace PIP.
"My Lai? Isn't that stretching it a little?"
"The story the Department of Corrections secretary cited in an ethics lecture for his wardens and top administrators this month was one in which he took no pride. In fact, he wasn't even there - McDonough was still at West Point when the history-making horror stories of the My Lai massacre and its aftermath occurred." "Bill Cotterell: It starts at the top".
Trimming The Fat
"A key piece of Florida Forever is quickly going broke. Armed each year with $105 million, the state program buys forests, beaches and critical wildlife habitat to keep them from being developed into homes and businesses. The system, set up by the Legislature, was supposed to run through the end of this decade, but the cash isn't likely to last that long. In fact, inflating real-estate costs have made state officials dip so deeply into future funding that as little as $30 million of the expected $315 million in funding through 2010 remains uncommitted to deals." "Land-preservation fund runs low".
"So to pare back costs, lawmakers in May rightly decided to limit the grants to homes valued at $300,000 or less, down from $500,000. But they also decided to give the perks only to people who live in coastal communities. In other words, residents of inland counties such as Polk, which was hit by three hurricanes in 2004, will again be forced to subsidize coastal residents from the sidelines." "All Floridians Deserve Access To Home-Inspection Program".
Once Every Four Years
"Democrats preach virtue of labor unions".
"Jenne's justice-will-prevail-attitude that played so well in the days following the shooting death of Wellington resident Chris Reyka belies a dark side of the once-legendary lawmaker, according to federal prosecutors. By the end of the summer — possibly as early as this week — a federal grand jury is expected to indict the former state political heavyweight for using his powerful position as Broward County's top cop for his personal gain." "Looming legal difficulties tarnish Broward sheriff's polished image".
"19.9 -- The average 2007 ACT score in the state of Florida. ... The figure is one of the lowest in state-by-state comparisons. Only South Carolina, Washington, D.C. and Mississippi pulled lower test scores than the Sunshine State." "The Slant "Stat" on ACT scores".
"When Wal-Mart talks, we should listen".
Bill Cotterell the other day:
The most important thing to come out of the state Republican Party meeting last weekend was not the decision to send a full delegation to Minnesota next year and dare the national party to enforce rules that penalize Florida for throwing an early presidential primary. ...There is much more in Cotterell's informative column: "Reaching out or just a reach?".
So the more important news out of Orlando was GOP Chairman Jim Greer's creation of three "outreach coalitions" to target African-American, Hispanic and Jewish voters next year. Separately, the party is also running a voter-registration drive among women.
Hmmm, you think they might be expecting to run against a woman for president? Or possibly see a black candidate on the Democratic ticket?
"County health care district weighs spending up to $2 million on a PR campaign." "Not the time to be splurging on a PR campaign".
"Companies paying vast sums for property have found a loophole that costs the state millions by helping landowners avoid Florida's real-estate tax. Most home buyers don't spend enough to benefit from the loophole. State legislators facing a $1.1 billion budget deficit would be foolish to let the loophole stand. As The Post's Jeff Ostrowski reported last Sunday, three separate landowners selling their property for a combined $600 million didn't pay the 0.7 percent documentary stamp tax. On transactions that big, the savings are significant - as is the loss to the state treasury. The loophole on just those three deals cost the state $4.2 million. The Department of Revenue says it's impossible to know how much the loophole has cost statewide." "Close this tax loophole".
The Greatest Generation
The Palm Beach Post's George McEvoy wrote yesterday about his "personal hero, one I didn't tell anyone in my family or my circle of friends about - Moe Fishman." "Meet my hero Moe, Young Communist".
A Better Question
Randy Schultz on Florida's effort to pass a national catastrophe fund: "The biggest political problem with such legislation has been geography. Why should residents of Iowa or Montana or Illinois or Pennsylvania pay to bail out those stupid people in Florida who live in a dangerous place?" "Can Florida sell the nation on insurance?".
A better question might be "Why should residents of Iowa or Montana or Illinois or Pennsylvania pay to bail out those
stupid selfish people in Florida who live in a state without the political spine to raise enough revenue to maintain a decent infrastructure and otherwise take care of itself when bad weather strikes?"
Return the Gift
"It is not often that a local government tries to turn down $10 million in federal construction money."
But then it is not every day that an Alaska congressman surprises a Florida community with the gift of a highway interchange that just happens to abut the property of a major political fund-raiser."A Congressman’s $10 Million Gift for Road Is Rebuffed".
The money for the interchange was the work of Representative Don Young, the Alaska Republican who was chairman of the transportation committee before the last election.
Officials of Lee County considered the project a low priority, environmental groups opposed it and the Republican congressman from the district never asked for it.
But the interchange, on Interstate 75 at a place called Coconut Road, would be a boon to Daniel J. Aronoff, a Michigan real estate developer with adjacent property who helped raise $40,000 in donations to Mr. Young at a fund-raiser in the region shortly before Mr. Young inserted an earmark for the project in a transportation bill.
Don't you love it when right-wingers rely on what they consider to be mere legal technicalities (like Miranda) to avoid sex charges.
"Attorneys for state Rep. Bob Allen will argue in court Friday that statements the lawmaker made and charges against him should be tossed in the prostitution solicitation case. Allen's defense team filed motions asking Brevard County Circuit Court Judge Oscar Hotusing to dismiss charges against the two-term legislator and suppress evidence -- including statements Allen made after the arrest saying he was intimidated by 'a stocky, black man.' His attorney Greg Eisenmenger said Titusville police did not read Allen his Miranda rights before questioning him after the arrest and continued to interview him after he asked for attorney Philip Lupo." "Miranda issue in Allen case".
One could say that this correlates with Florida's shift from a Democratic state to a Republican state, but that would be a cheap shot. "A look at the increase in childhood obsesity".
FCAT Follies: Another Jebacy Biting the Dust?
"With Jeb Bush gone and his handpicked commissioner of education forced out by Gov. Crist, it might be possible to reform a system that since 1999 has pretended that a simple A through F grade could provide a meaningful picture of a school." "End simplistic system of grading the schools".
"Republican and Democratic lawmakers still disagree over whether the FCAT is the best way to hold schools accountable. But they are beginning to agree on one thing: To really measure the education that Florida students are getting, more benchmarks may be needed - especially for high schools, which have struggled to attain passing grades from the state." "Legislators Evaluate FCAT's Limits".