The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "If the 2007-08 Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission has any hope of salvaging its legacy, it will resist efforts this week to flip-flop in the face of high-stakes lobbying and unseemly horse trading. Commissioners are being pressured to reverse their decisions on constitutional amendments involving a historic tax swap and school vouchers, and doing so would only make them look all the more political."
First the tax swap:
The tax swap has taken a particularly nasty turn since commissioners voted last month, 21-4, to put it on the November ballot. At the time, the majority rebuked business lobbyists who called it a tax increase. The plan would eliminate the state-required portion of school property taxes, reducing most property tax bills by roughly 25 percent. Those school property taxes would be replaced by an extra penny of sales tax and the removal of unspecified sales tax exemptions.Next, vouchers:
The swap is far from perfect. A sales tax rate increase tends to disadvantage poor people, and the swap leaves some critical details to a Legislature that has been wholly uncooperative. But that's not why business lobbyists have gone to war. They are afraid the swap might end some of their clients' coveted tax exemptions, including some that exempt professional services. To the extent that's true, the removal of those exemptions is actually the best part of the deal.
As the commission prepares for its final meetings on Thursday and Friday, one commissioner already has announced he is switching his vote and the elbows are flying.
The second potential flip-flop comes on an issue that doesn't even belong in front of the commission. Patricia Levesque, who runs the education foundation dedicated to preserving the education legacy of Gov. Jeb Bush, has used her commission position to try to put school vouchers on the November ballot."Tax panel loses way in political thicket".
The commission voted to put one voucher question on the ballot, but rejected the other. Then, in an odd move at its last meeting, commissioner and Florida Retail Federation executive Randy Miller asked to reconsider the failed voucher vote. After his request, the commission passed his Internet sales tax amendment by one vote. His changed vote on vouchers represents the swing vote.
On the tax swap, The Palm Beach Post editorial Board has this today: "If the idea is that a sales-tax-for-property-tax swap will be the crowning achievement of the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, the commission doesn't deserve a crown."
The proposed constitutional amendment, sponsored by former Florida Senate President John McKay, started as a backdoor approach to closing sales tax loopholes, a cause that Mr. McKay has championed for seven years. To win support from those who consider his idea a tax increase, Mr. McKay attached it to a proposal that would eliminate 25 percent of the local property tax - the share charged by the state to pay for public schools.Learn more here: "Kill property-tax swap; it would hurt Florida"
That change would cost $8 billion in revenue statewide. An increase of 1 cent in the base 6-cent sales tax would make up for about half of the lost revenue. The rest, in Mr. McKay's view, would come from broadening the sales-tax base while continuing to exempt such essentials as groceries and medicine.
From the "values" crowd
Jebbie eliminates the intangibles tax, and now we get this: "An expansion of free breakfasts to children attending poor schools was the latest victim of state budget cuts." "Breakfasts in schools being cut".
Connect the dots.
Still more from the "values" crowd
"Some of the most experienced teachers in Seminole County schools are being pushed out the door because of budget cuts, but school-district officials say they have no choice."
"It's a slap in the face," said Susan Behel, 68, a longtime science teacher at Lake Brantley High who was told she won't be coming back. "I have contributed a lot to this school.""Top teachers in Seminole angry about being dropped".
Just last week, Behel was in Cambridge, Mass., where the Harvard University Graduate School of Education recognized her as one of four teachers nationwide to receive the Singer Prize for Excellence in Secondary Education. It's the latest in a slew of honors she has received through the years.
Behel rushed back to Florida after the awards ceremony to take 37 Seminole students to the state science fair in Lakeland, where 32 -- including some whose research projects she directed -- brought home prizes.
Sarcasm alert: this leech is also a double dipper exploiting the generosity of us poor taxpayers, she is in the DROP program, one of "about 75 teachers who five years ago signed up for deferred retirement pay in a state incentive program designed to keep them in the classroom during a teacher shortage" - I for one, am sick and tired of these greedy public employees (who get the summers off), and enjoy"lavish" FRS pensions while those of us in the private sector have to do all the real work. Will our editorial boards please stand up to these outrages, or will they continue to be cowed by their commie buddies in the teachers unions?
RPOFers "vote for a sound bite or bumper sticker"
"House Republicans today plan to push through heavy property tax cuts and strict government revenue caps, setting up another showdown with Senate leaders who have shown little interest in repeating the bitter tax debates of last year."
But hesitation from Senate leaders hasn't slowed House Republicans, who on Tuesday fended off several Democratic amendments from their proposals. But they have also done little to open lines of communications between the chambers on the issue."Democratic leaders said House Republicans unwillingness to accept amendments to the tax bills on Tuesday showed they weren't "serious" about tax cuts."
"You have a fatal attraction to sound bites that is killing real property relief," House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber told Republicans on the House floor. "If you want to vote for a sound bite or bumper sticker, go ahead. If you want to do something serious, come back and let us know."Catch up on the details in this comprehensive piece by Michael Bender: "House heads for new tax showdown".
House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, acknowledged that the bills were meant, at least in part, to maintain credibility among voters.
"If we don't pass something, how can we continue to say that we believe in property tax reform?" Rubio said.
"The Florida House is poised today to approve a tax cut package that would slice an average property owner's bill in Broward and Palm Beach counties by more than 30 percent, in a bid to place unprecedented restrictions on local taxation. But with the legislative session grinding to a close, a question looms over the House's aggressive tax-cut program: Will a reluctant Senate go along?" "House pushes referendum on slashing property taxes 30%". See also "Florida Republicans seek cap on property taxes".
"Tax collectors are apologizing to more than 1,200 Broward County residents who were told they would lose their home for not paying their tax bills on time." "Tax Collectors Apologize To Broward Residents After Glitch".
"The state's largest teachers' union Tuesday joined the rising clamor of advocates urging lawmakers to dip into reserves to avoid deep budget cuts." "Teachers union urges legislators to tap reserve fund".
RPOFers hiding under their beds ...
... as the phrase "tax increases" is mentioned: "$2-a-day car rental tax would help pay for Tri-Rail improvements".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "A bill that pushes women to see sonogram before abortion invades privacy".
"A host of reasons to reject" Charlie McSame's silly idea
The Miami Herald editorial board: "There are a host of reasons to reject the gas-tax holiday being proposed by Gov. Charlie Crist. Start with this one: Why lower the price of gas temporarily when it doesn't do anything to address the real problem: the increasingly high cost of foreign oil." "Save, and pollute less". See also "Summer Holiday For Fuel Taxes A Faulty Idea From McCain, Crist".
"Commuter trains by 2010"? Good luck
"The rail deal that would have Central Floridians commuting to work by train survived a key vote in the state Senate on Tuesday, but it's still in danger of jumping the tracks in the next 10 days. With critics threatening to derail the plan to begin running commuter trains by 2010, Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster is trying to salvage the project during the final days of the legislative session." "Orlando-area commuter-rail deal gets sidetracked". See also "Orlando commuter rail plan returns with tweaks".
And the decision is ...
"Federal prosecutors in Miami are set to announce whether there will be a third trial for six men accused of plotting to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices." "U.S. to announce decision on third trial in Sears Tower plot".
"A proposal in the Legislature would require companies to let consumers know in writing that their service contracts will be renewed automatically if they don't cancel first." "Bill regulates contract shifts".
Fun with RPOFers
"Bob Solari is mad as hell, and he doesn’t want the Indian River County Republican Party to take it anymore."
Via a resolution submitted this month, the County Commission candidate warned fellow members of the party’s executive committee to beware of what he now calls “socialists” in their midst. Who might those pinkos be? Card-carrying members of the Indian River Neighborhood Association."Purify GOP, purge IRNA?"
Consider his crusade quixotic or McCarthy-esque, but Solari describes himself as a “true conservative” standing up for Grand Old Party principles. He’s convinced that the local franchise is being trampled by a herd of IRNA Rinos — Republicans in Name Only. ...
Solari offers no specific strategies to eradicate fifth-column Democrats. That’s wise, since blood oaths and show trials evoke grim images of Soviet Politburo purges. But it’s ironic that the liberty-loving Solari — who mentions the IRNA in the same breath as Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro — would obsess over political correctitude.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Florida Legislature should not undermine university system Board of Governors".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Both ideas -- to create an elected education commissioner and to strip the university system's Board of Governors of its power -- have been combined into one horrible ballot initiative the state Senate has approved. Now this resolution comes to the House and threatens the very legacy of education reform Mr. Rubio has worked so hard to build." "House Speaker Rubio should reject efforts to politicize education".
Why do the Sentinel editors attribute the following platitude to Rubio, an empty suit who even makes Charlie look substantive: "Among Mr. Rubio's top priorities is to establish new 'World Class Education Standards' for math, social science and science."
More: "As the Legislature gets closer to taking control of the state's university system, higher education leaders say lawmakers also are meddling in the process of awarding research money to schools." "Colleges Fight State For Money". The Legislature "meddling in the process of awarding research money", now that's dumberest than dumb and dumberer.
It's a Ronda and Johnnie thing
"In a year when many state-funded programs are being shortchanged because of a sour economy, the Johnnie Byrd Sr. Alzheimer's Institute in Tampa stands to lose every dime of government money — and it's not complaining. The reason: The institute is willing to trade state money for independence. Lawmakers, desperate for every health-care dollar, have jumped at the opportunity." "Alzheimer's center wins bid to be cut from state budget". See also "Legislators: No State Funds For Byrd Alzheimer's Center".
Maybe one day they'll grow up ...
... and not have to pay an intangibles tax. "The idea [dropout intervention] is to match at-risk minority youth with successful black men in school-based programs. The goal is to reduce the number of African-American youths who drop out of school and enter prison. Because of budget cutbacks, the plan would get no state funding this year, which raises some doubts about the pace of the program's expansion." "Funding plan seeks to boost mentoring of at-risk youth".
What's the problem? ... my Lexus never breaks down
"State budget may lop Road Rangers".
"Denigrat[ing] each other's patient-unfriendly health plans"
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Last week, Gov. Crist and House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, attempted to denigrate each other's patient-unfriendly health plans. Instead, they should have teamed to urge the Bush administration to do something meaningful for children who have no health insurance. Gov. Crist's Cover Florida plan would offer so little in coverage that many people would be better off saving the $150-per-month fee and using the money for a doctor visit. Rep. Rubio wants to give employers a way out of providing the best quality health insurance." "Let states insure children".
Kudos for this sweet turn of a phrase: "Crist and House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, attempted to denigrate each other's patient-unfriendly health plans".
Them crazy judges
"An irate judge wiped the books Tuesday of several thousand citations handed out to drivers accused of skipping tolls because their dashboard transponders malfunctioned."
Circuit Judge John Galluzzo accused the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority and Florida Turnpike Authority of making traffic offenders out of innocent E-Pass and SunPass customers whose tolls fail to record as they pass through the electronic plazas."Judge tosses thousands of toll citations".
"Stooges of Big Labor"?
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board is, after all, part of the business community - hence editorials like this: "Mr. Bush also knows that the Colombia agreement has many Democratic supporters, and pressing for it drives a wedge between them and Democrats he can portray as stooges of Big Labor. Those "stooges" would include Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The Democratic presidential contenders, however, believe that they can portray themselves as champions of labor and benefit politically." "Hold Colombia trade vote".
Broward Days are here again
"It may be a little late in the legislative game to make a profound impact, but Broward Days — the annual chance for Broward political and business leaders to mingle and connect with Tallahassee lawmakers and lobbyists — kicked off Tuesday in an upbeat and optimistic mood." "Broward County groups push their causes in Tallahassee".
But them biotechers server great wine at their parties
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida has invested more than $1 billion to attract research institutes here, and taxpayers deserve more than a promise of prosperity."
"Bill Puts Checks On Biotech Giveaways".
WHEREAS, we don't like gangs, we shall therefore outlaw them
"Bipartisan anti-gang legislation is cruising through the legislature with virtually no opposition, even from civil liberties groups." "Anti-gangs bill may yet draw ACLU action".
Exception that proves the rule
"A new program to increase insurance availability and other services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities passed through its first House committee Tuesday amid warnings that a high price tag could mean more cuts elsewhere." "Bill would increase insurance availability, services for autistic and developmentally disabled children".
Heads I win, tails you lose
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Maybe next time, the Broward County Commission can just try rock, paper, scissors. That makes as much sense as how they picked a search firm to help select a county administrator — they flipped a coin. Incredibly, after going through a very convoluted process, the selection committee made up of five county commissioners ended up deadlocked over search firm choices. The commissioners broke their stalemate by flipping a coin — the other option, we are serious, was drawing straws — before awarding the $40,000 deal to CPS Human Resources Services over Ralph Andersen & Associates to conduct the national search. Getting a deadlock with five people on the committee tells you how convoluted the process is." "You'll flip over Broward County Commission's decision-making process".
"At the end of an odd turn of events Monday the status quo held and Allstate agents were still selling insurance Tuesday, but it remains to be seen whether the mistaken release of a court order was a preview of what's to come next week." "Appeals court Allstate ruling an 'error'".
NRA springs to child's defense
"Father finds cache of weapons, ammunition in girl's treehouse".
We don't need no stinkin' regulation of entrepreneurship ...
"Despite three South Florida construction crane accidents this year, it looks like efforts to set statewide standards for their operators won't make it through the Legislature. Two people died in those accidents and seven were injured. For the second year in a row, some state legislators have tried to pass a law regulating the use of the contraptions that tower above South Florida's skyline." "State legislators' campaign for crane standards falters again".
"One of President Nixon's daughters, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, apparently supports a Democrat in this year's presidential contest -- Barack Obama. Eisenhower has contributed the maximum amount allowed during the primary season to Obama's campaign: $2,300. Federal Election Commission records show she gave Obama's campaign $1,000 on Feb. 4, another $1,000 on Feb. 18 and $300 on March 5." "Nixon's daughter gives to Obama".