"Florida is in its worst state budget hole since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with the downturn likely to deepen, economists say."
"This is a big deal, a very big deal," said economist Chris McCarty at the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research. ..."Florida faces worst budget woes since 9-11".
In fact, some economists say Florida is teetering close to a recession. They say home values could fall as much as 15 percent this year, sparking a general economic decline.
"A Jackson County woman who ran an adult-literacy program is suing the state, claiming that her business was ruined by a federal investigation sparked by a 'rank hatred and hostility' toward faith-based programs in the [Florida] Department of Education." "Woman sues state after federal inquiry".
In a lengthy piece this morning, William March writes that Crist is
drawing criticism from conservative parts of Crist's own Republican Party - criticism that is muted so far because of Crist's sky-high popularity ratings."Crist's Moves May Ignite Conservative Backlash".
If the popular governor isn't able to deliver on the major promises of his campaign - sharply cutting property tax and insurance rates - it could leave him vulnerable to a conservative rebellion, some political experts say.
"I keep expecting that there will be some backlash," said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett when asked about Crist's initiatives on climate change, restoring voting rights for convicted felons and abandoning much of the agenda of former Gov. Jeb Bush.
"Keep throwing the ball around"
"Crist says he is going on the offensive against insurance companies -- including State Farm -- whose rates for homeowners' coverage remain sky high. But the state's biggest private insurer could be a big winner in another insurance fight now playing out in the Legislature, if it can just get legislators to keep throwing the ball around. No-fault auto insurance is set to expire Oct. 1 in Florida. State Farm, Florida's dominant homeowner and auto underwriter, wants to see that happen, promising it would yield a 16 percent rate cut for a two-car household." "Car insurance: 'Lobbyist food fight'".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Floridians have every right to be frustrated by exorbitant insurance costs. The Legislature's attempt to deliver rate relief to weary homeowners and businesses is fizzling." "A storm over insurance relief".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board:"Crist's harsh criticism of insurance companies reflects the anger all Floridians feel toward a powerful industry that simply refuses to make property insurance available or affordable because it fears a major hurricane. But that frustration has to be channeled into more creative thinking about how to ease a crisis that shows no sign of letting up. The governor and state legislators were celebrating in January after agreeing that the state would accept an enormous amount of financial risk in return for substantially lower premiums for property owners. So far, the trade-off has not been worth it." "New thinking on insurance".
Fasano Faults Dems for Legislature's Failures
"'We definitely did fail, but it wasn't just the Republican Party,' state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9." "Making sure blame is passed all around".
A Fine Idea At The Time ...
The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission may have an old trick up its sleeve: "John McKay was president of the Florida Senate a few years back, and concluded that the state's tax system had long ago outlived its usefulness."
He decided the state relied too much on a regressive sales tax full of exemptions and exclusions worth tens of billions of dollars a year, many favoring big business. ..."McKay was the rare Republican who sought an end to business as usual in Tallahassee, and big business fought him. The TV broadcasting lobby went after him. Gov. Jeb Bush and the House accused him of pushing a backdoor tax increase."
His plan was to lower the sales tax rate from 6 percent to 4.5 percent and close the exemptions for such things as charter fishing boats, accounting and legal fees, stadium skyboxes and ostrich feed.
History was repeating itself, sort of. Nearly 15 years before, Gov. Bob Martinez and the Legislature voted to tax most professional services. Intense lobbying by businesses, including newspapers, made them back down and repeal it.
Bad timing helped doom McKay's agenda. He ran the Senate right before Bush sought re-election, and his House partner was Tom Feeney, a small-government firebrand eyeing a congressional seat.Find out where the tax on services is here: "Old tax plan may still rise from ashes".
The status quo prevailed, and McKay returned to Bradenton and real estate. And now the state again finds itself in an ugly fiscal situation, forced to cut $1.5-billion from this year's budget and who knows how much from next year's and the year after.
The reason: too heavy a reliance on a consumption-based sales tax, which ebbs and flows through the booms and busts of each economic cycle.
What McKay saw coming in 2001 has happened again, which is why legislators will soon return to Tallahassee to cut the budget again.
And where's John McKay these days?
Pandering to the Press
The Orlando Sentinel editors:
U.S. House Republicans Ric Keller of Orlando and Tom Feeney of Oviedo have had their share of dustups with journalists, but both have the good sense and historical perspective to understand how crucial a vigorous press is to a healthy democracy."The free flow of information".
Mr. Keller and Mr. Feeney and other Judiciary Committee members endorsed a bill this past week that would protect journalists from being forced to reveal their confidential sources. While most states have such shield laws, there is no law for federal cases. In a growing number of those cases, reporters have been hauled into court and threatened with imprisonment for not naming their sources.
"Government leads best when it sets an example. Local leaders -- from schools to county to cities -- are figuring this out. Gov. Charlie Crist put the state on board last month, with an aggressive energy-conservation program that focuses on reducing Florida's greenhouse gases." "Setting the pace".
"Always doing things on the cheap"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "The average citizen has no idea of the structural condition of any bridge he or she is driving over and can only assume that engineers and inspectors have done their jobs. But elected officials and taxpayers have to do theirs, too. First this means a frank acknowledgment that always doing things on the cheap is poor public policy in the long run." "Capital crisis".
Over the Limit
"A union-backed political action committee paid for Mayor Mara Giulianti's business-related trip to Boston. She reported the funding as gift on state ethics forms, but Florida law prohibits public officials from accepting gifts over $100 from political action committees." "Hollywood mayor's $2,500 gift from PAC exceeded $100 legal limit".
Poor Mel ...
Even the wingnuts don't like "Karl Rove's Florida Frankenstein" any more:
Dewey Wallace is trying to make history."Heat on Mel".
Wallace, 50, wants to unseat U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., as chairman of the Republican National Committee, gathering support on the Web site recallmel.com. ...
By last week, Wallace estimated he had about 400 petitions demanding Martinez step down as RNC chairman.
A recent poll by Quinnipiac University shows 38 percent of Florida voters disapprove of Martinez's performance as senator, while just 36 percent give him passing grades. At least some of that can be traced to Martinez's role as a co-author of the immigration bill, which he pushed for the White House. The measure died after being skewered for weeks on conservative talk radio.
Wallace, who said he has not been a political activist until now, would also like Martinez recalled from the Senate. But state and federal law have no such provisions.
While he concedes Republican National Committee members aren't likely to heed the call for turning out Martinez, Wallace hopes they remember the anger stirred by the immigration bill.
Fort Lauderdale's Mayor "Naugle's modern-day mentors aren't local. He said he learns a lot from President Bush and conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Though he's registered as a Democrat, he consistently supports Republicans." "Pugnacious Mayor Naugle won't back down, friends say".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Florida's financial situation is precarious, and depends to a degree on the hurricane season. But if the housing hangover is milder than the binge, the state will find that sober feels pretty good." "State fortunes will rise as home prices go down".
Charlie Strides The World Stage
"Crist and state officials have announced a trade mission to Brazil this November. It will be the governor's first foray into the hemisphere, a back yard that has complained of U.S. indifference and neglect since 9-11." "Charlie Crist's visit to Brazil could be doubly useful".
The Tallahassee Democrat's Mary Ann Lindley: "The old governing board [of Regents], readers here in the capital will remember, was powerless to fight the imbalance when politics started outgunning thoughtful managerial oversight. The old Board of Regents was, in fact, rendered extinct when it disputed a House speaker's agenda for his alma mater. The BOG is immune from that particular kind of payback - though certainly not from political gamesmanship." "BOG Supremacy: University governors take the stage".
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board:""
the county, like local governments across Florida, are in a cash crunch, thanks to state-mandated tax cuts. And, yes, the situation will get hairier if Floridians pass a super-sized homestead exemption come January. Some services that residents have come to expect — like road projects, parks programs and sheriff substations — may very well get the ax."Spending tax money to fight tax cuts an insulting irony".
But to dip into the already short supply of tax dollars to campaign against further tax cuts is an insult that will only undermine the county's credibility during budget season. That money is put to best use defraying the impact of potential cuts.
Hmmm ... but it is apparently OK to spend tax dollars to pay for false and misleading anti-union campaigns orchestrated by thug union busting lawyers against public employees when they deign to exercise their fundamental constitutional right (under article I, Section 6 of of the Florida Constitution) to seek union representation. We look forward to seeing that editorial.