"Repeating some of Florida's worst political history"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board:
The same special interests that have bought the Legislature's protection from tax reform have made some new friends in the capital, and guess who comes out the loser again. When a committee of the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission chose Monday to spare accountants and architects at the cost of taxing the average Joe, it was repeating some of Florida's worst political history."The worst part of Florida's tax system is that it taxes the poorest 20 percent at nearly five times the rate of the richest 1 percent, ranking it the second most regressive in the nation."
Two decades ago, lawmakers faced a similar choice. First they embraced the fair, enlightened approach by making the users of services such as lawyers and accountants and advertisers and real estate agents pay the same sales tax as those who buy clothes, tools and other goods. Then the special interests went to work. Prodded by Republican Gov. Bob Martinez, who did not have enough backbone to withstand considerable political pressure, the Legislature reinstated the very exemptions it had lifted and raised the state sales tax by a penny. In 1987, Florida went from a leader in embracing a fairer, broader tax system to a backward tax policy that is regressive and far too narrow for a state with global aspirations.
Given that the state is not about to adopt an income tax, the only viable alternative is to apply the sales tax as broadly as possible. That way, at least, all parts of the economy pay a share. ..."Last chance for real tax reform".
Florida is stuck with a tax system designed mostly in the 1940s that has not aged well as the state's economy and population have blossomed. Yet those who enjoy the exemptions are not about to give them up without a fight. The Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission meets only once every two decades and is supposed to rise above it all. It is supposed to see through the usual scare tactics and consider the interests of all taxpayers. Proposing an extra penny of sales tax to help reduce property taxes is not reform. It is a sellout to the powerful, and the full commission has one last opportunity to look toward the future instead of back to 1987.
Even Mike Thomas can occasionally surprise: "To make Florida a more desirable place to live, one that will attract more quality employers, we need to upgrade."
But increasing our narrow, distorted tax structure enough to pay for it puts too heavy a penalty on the middle class. Florida is known for having the most regressive tax system in the nation.Here's the shocking part - Mike Thomas actually lays some of the blame at the feet of his Saint "Jeb!":
We depend on two basic sources of money: property taxes, and a sales tax on goods that is riddled with exemptions.
We used to have an intangibles tax on investments that targeted wealthier residents, often retirees. But Jeb Bush dumped it, costing the state billions and shifting more of the tax burden down to the families now fleeing the state."Florida's regressive tax structure backfires in distant boom".
A nice trend
Steve Bousquet: "Tony Sasso's victory Tuesday in a Space Coast-area state House seat marks the ninth time in 15 months that a Democrat has won a previously Republican House seat. Despite being outspent nearly 2-1, Sasso beat a Republican to win the seat vacated by the GOP's Bob Allen." "Democrats continue to take GOP seats".
Hill's last (Florida) breath?
"Two Tampa Democrats challenging the national Democratic Party's disavowal of the Florida primary will get a federal appeals court hearing on their lawsuit."
Hillsborough County Democratic Party chairman Mike Steinberg, a disabilities lawyer, and local political consultant Vic DiMaio filed the lawsuit in August.Is this Hillary's last breath, at least in Florida?
A federal judge in Tampa had dismissed it in October, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has now said it will hear arguments March 17.
"What this tells me is they find this an interesting case," Steinberg said. He said the defendant, the Democratic National Committee, asked for a hearing along with himself and DiMaio.
The two contend that the DNC violated the rights of Floridians by refusing to recognize the results of the state's Jan. 29 presidential primary.
DiMaio and Steinberg acknowledged their lawsuit could help New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton against Illinois Sen. Barack Obama."Court Will Hear Primary Suit". See also "Florida primary suit has new life".
Clinton won the Florida primary with a margin of 38 delegates, and argues those delegates should be seated. Obama says that would amount to changing rules in the middle of the game.
But DiMaio and Steinberg denied they were trying to help either candidate.
All Charlie all the time
"Crist wants to raise the TV ratings for his State of the State speech, so he's moving the traditional high-noon report on Florida government to an evening hour next Tuesday." "Crist moves up State of the State".
"Homeowner-insurance costs rank high in poll of likely Florida voters".
Real states pay for infrastructure that works
"A 'massive equipment failure' that sparked a fire at a Florida Power & Light Co. substation in west Miami knocked two of the state's five nuclear reactors off line Tuesday afternoon, swiftly triggering a wave of outages that temporarily left about 2.2 million Floridians without power." "FPL equipment failure knocks out power for 2.2 million across Florida".
"An investigation into how a single switch and a fire at a substation led to massive blackouts across the state will include a look at why the problem wasn't contained and whether two nuclear reactors may have shut down prematurely, experts said Wednesday." "Experts say likely more than one cause for Florida blackouts".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Residents throughout Florida were mightily inconvenienced by the blackout, but they should be reassured that the nuclear reactors were protected and the system worked as designed. Residents can consider this a realistic but bothersome test run. No one was seriously injured and everyone now is aware of how dependent our entire state is on an intricately connected electrical system. The job now is to make sure that nothing like this happens again." "A close call, but not the real thing". The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "FPL needs to answer questions about how small incident became major power outage". The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Something went right, but more went wrong".
"A business economist warned that Florida schools need cash and need to be considered a higher priority if the state wants to meet its goals for economic growth." "Schools need more cash for state goals".
"Words are cheap"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board:
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is an amiable guy. Just a few weeks ago he came to Leon County to help Tall Timbers Research Station celebrate its 50th anniversary. All smiles and full of good wishes, he alluded to the ongoing water dispute among Florida, Georgia and Alabama with a hint of conciliation."Whose resolve?". See also The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Get Ready For Florida-Georgia Water War".
"We ought to get along as well on water as we do on quail and timber," Mr. Perdue said, "but hopefully that will come as well."
Words are cheap, apparently.
On Tuesday in Washington, where he met with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley in their effort to resolve a three-way tug of war over water rights in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin, Mr. Perdue wasn't so conciliatory.
He basically told his counterparts that their states' needs weren't as important as Georgia's, and that they lacked resolve to reach a compromise because of that.
That's called chutzpah.
"Civil rights advocates gather at the Capitol this morning to demand changes that would make it easier for ex-convicts to get state occupational licenses. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union, has called a 10 a.m. news conference in front of the Florida House." "Group fights for ex-felons to re-enter workforce".
"Florida's most expensive scholarship program is proving to be one of its most untouchable." "Don't change Bright Futures scholarships, officials told".
Lollipops, lollipops ...
"What's the ultimate price for illegally funneling $1,500 in campaign contributions in a city election?"
It will cost strip-club manager Sean Bishop his freedom."Political-cash case lands Daytona club manager in jail".
Bishop, manager of Lollipops Gentlemen's Club in Daytona Beach, was sentenced Wednesday to six months in jail for the three $500 checks, written by others but reimbursed by him in cash. With time off for good behavior, he may serve five months.
"Haridopolos not enrolled since 2000, University of Arkansas says". For background see yesterday's "Course: Political Influence 101".
"Quiz Cubans on their new president and you're as likely to hear about Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama as Raul Castro.
Many believe any changes the next American administration makes to its Cuba policy will be more important to their happiness than any reforms the island's first new head of state in 49 years may embrace." "In Cuba, US election resonates as much as new Castro presidency".
"Money paid into trust funds for specific purposes ranging from enforcing condo laws to providing affordable housing would be diverted to routine government expenses under terms of Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed $70 billion state budget." "Crist wants to raid $740 million from trust funds to balance budget".
"Florida's class war has ended"
An intrepid college professor takes a look at the silly claims - uncritically regurgitated in the Jebedia - that education has somehow improved in Florida over the last eight years; he points out that
Florida student Scholastic Achievement Test scores were 1,001 in 1998 compared to a 1,017 national average, before Bush became governor. In 2007, SAT scores were 993 compared to 1,017 nationally. More students are taking the test, but facts don't support the thesis that Bush's programs have improved K-12 education."Florida's class war has ended and our students lost".
If Bush's programs improved student preparation, why is it that the number of community college prep students increased from 27,120 in 2001-02 to 27,351 in 2005-06, according to the Florida Department of Education's community college Fact Book?
Florida's schools and colleges and universities regressed under Jeb Bush because he defunded them, just as Charlie Crist and the Republican Legislature plan to do by gutting the property tax base in Florida. Jeb cut taxes for his rich friends, but eviscerated public school funding. The most recent U.S. Department of Education Center for Education Statistics report shows that in 1997-98 Florida spent $5,552 per public school pupil compared to the U.S. $6,189 average — a $637 per pupil funding deficit. In 2004-05, Florida funding increased to $7,215, but the national average rose to $8,701 — making the Florida funding deficit $1,486 per pupil.
In Florida, the class war is over. Our students lost.