"Despite a 10 percent cut to their state spending plan for next year, House lawmakers said Monday that a historic run of budget shortfalls might not be over. 'We are in uncharted waters,' said House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami. 'I don't think we've ever been in this place - certainly not in modern history in Florida.'" "State House sees no end to budget cuts". Remind me. Which political party has been sailing Florida's ship of state for the last decade?
"The Florida House leadership presented a budget plan of $65.1 billion [Monday] and proposed an emergency stop-gap measure to head off any further shortfalls in state revenue collections. House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, and budget chief Rep. Ray Sansom said the budget fiscal 2008-09 that will be considered by Sansom's House Policy and Budget Council is almost 10 percent below the final 2007-08 budget. That budget was about $70.3 billion after some reductions forced by state revenues not keeping up with projections." "Florida House proposes $65.1 billion budget, 10-percent cut".
And how is this for raw political courage?: "state lawmakers are proposing giving Gov. Charlie Crist and a handful of legislators the power to spend up to $1.7-billion in reserves to avoid a deficit." "Reaching for the reserves".
The courage of Florida RPOH-House never ceases to amaze: "House leaders rolled out a $65.1 billion budget with no pay raises for state employees Monday, along with a stop-gap plan to let Gov. Charlie Crist use reserves and trust funds if Florida's tax collections continue to fall short." "No raises in $65.1 billion Florida House budget".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board explains why we're "Budget hostages" ("'We are "unraveling our sense of community in this state,' a seasoned lobbyist observed, looking over some $700 million in House and Senate budget cuts currently aimed at health and human services.")
"South Florida this year may be forced to absorb more than half of the public school spending cuts being proposed by the state House". "Broward schools face biggest cuts in state from legislators". See also "Budget ax hangs over jobs at schools" and "Budget-balancing legislators to raid Palm Beach County schools for funds".
Sittin' in limbo
"Five months away from one of the most anticipated political conventions in American history, there's no room at the inn -- or even the Motel 6 -- for delegates from Florida and Michigan." "Florida, Michigan delegates are seated in limbo".
"Florida state employees are the lowest paid nationwide"
After garbage like "Force Government To Rethink Its Generous Pay and Benefits" from the The Tampa Tribune editors board the other day, it is nice to see at least one editorial board reporting from planet earth. The The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editors board: "With all the talk about cutting the fat out of the state budget, it would be easy to forget the tasks government employees do for us every day."
They man our prisons, maintain our highways, regulate health care and respond to natural disasters and other emergencies, among other duties. And they deserve to be paid wages commensurate with their service."State employees underpaid" "State employees underpaid".
But in Florida, that's just not happening. The state spends less per capita on its employees than any other state in the union, according to a recent study by the Pew Center on the States and Governing. And for the second year in a row — and at a time when the cost of living has skyrocketed — state workers haven't received across-the-board raises.
Unfortunately, The Palm Beach Post editorial Board is happy to sidestep the pay problems of public employees if an icky union is involved. See "Police union misfires"
"Members of South Florida's congressional delegation Monday warned legislative leaders not to eliminate spending next year for Everglades restoration." "Florida urged not to cut funding for Everglades".
Stewards of the earth
"Florida is No. 1 in greyhound racetracks, but state regulators say they need more inspection power and penalties for animal abusers." "Dog tracks may face tougher scrutiny".
First you gut union trades apprenticeship training programs ...
... and then you complain about the lack of adequately trained construction workers - after all, those highly skilled union operating engineers (unlike the nonunion, unskilled construction workers who come to Florida from South Carolina and sleep in their cars with their cousins at job sites) have the unmitigated temerity to insist on Commie things like health insurance and other expensive things that drive up the cost of commercial building construction.The Miami Herald editorial board: "Florida needs tough crane-safety law".
RPOFers running government like a business?
"A state program created two years ago was supposed to get badly needed cancer drugs to some of the thousands of uninsured Floridians. The number of people it had helped by the start of March: one. In 2006, lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the program to allow donations of unused medications to cancer patients without insurance, but a lack of publicity and coordination has crippled it from the start. Other states like Louisiana have managed to fill thousands of free prescriptions in similar projects." "Cancer drug donor plan fails to thrive".
House courageously stands tall against "voyeurism of youths"
"A House bill that would make video voyeurism of youths a felony won't cost much money, still giving it a chance to pass in this tight budget year." "Florida House's budget-friendly voyeurism bill stands a chance".
That was "the easy part"
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board is on fire this morning.
"It was a strong, symbolic moment last week when Florida expressed regret for past wrongs. It also was the easy part. The apology is meaningful only if it inspires the same legislators to change what they're doing wrong now." While far too late, the editors write that
the timing of the apology matters less in relation to the past than it does to the present. Now that the Legislature has "call(ed) for healing and reconciliation among all residents of the state," will the House and Senate actually deal with the unfairness - in education, in health care, in prisons, in foster care - that still exists between blacks and whites? ..."State sorry for slavery; here's how to apologize".
Targeted, need-based social policy is the proper and practical reparation. Instead, Florida has cut scholarships to poor and first-in-family college students, limited subsidized health insurance for children of the working poor, underfinanced preschool programs and failed to require sufficient standards, and embraced disciplinary policies in schools that lead to dropouts. Legislators soon may cut: court programs that put drug offenders in rehab, not prison; budgets for colleges and universities; juvenile justice programs that help prevent crime; and money that helps former foster children go to college.
Dismissing such apologies as unnecessary reminders of slavery's brutality, particularly its physical cruelty, ignores the lingering institutional racism that began with slavery. The resulting inequity still shows itself in inequitable wages, unfair sentencing, disparate access to health care and education, and discriminatory lending practices.
"March brought South Florida above-normal rainfall for the second month in a row, but regional water supplies still show signs of strain." "South Florida: Water supplies low despite above-normal rainfall".
I'll stick with Costco, myself
"DOJ sues Wal-Mart claiming company denied former airman his job".
"With all the hoopla over the possibility of House Speaker Marco Rubio or business mogul Philip Levine challenging Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, the only two people who have actually filed to run say they have been overlooked." "Newcomers say they're being overlooked in Dade mayor race".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "The Legislature should slow down the state's plan to subsidize a commuter rail line in the Orlando area. The proposal has long been plagued by serious questions, and the questions only keep coming." "Put brakes on rail project in Orlando".
Daniel Ruth is confident that the questions will be answered:
But while it might seem darkest before the body politics' pocket is picked, there really is no need to worry about more than a half a billion dollars being bestowed upon a private corporation by Republicans who normally get the vapors at the prospect an inner-city single mother might be living high on the hog on $200 in food stamps."Any Time Now, The Peeps' Gov Will Save Us".
That's because, brothers and sisters, Florida has the self-proclaimed/self-anointed "People's Governor," Charlie Crist on the case - a man who eats, drinks, sleeps nothing but the interests of the "People" day and night/night and day.
Surely the "People's Governor" won't allow a $649 million cooked-up-in-secret diversion of the people's money steered to a private enterprise without ever giving the people, especially the people most directly affected by the out-of-the-sunshine footsie-wootsie, a chance to express their opinion in a public hearing.
Really now, how could the "People's Governor" keep running around the state humming: "People, people who need people," while promoting himself as the "People's Governor," if the very people who are the people as in the "People's Governor" can be treated as little more than lawn jockeys by CSX and the "Special Interests Legislature"?
See? There's nothing to worry about. People get ready, there's an election train coming.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board points out that it "didn't take local governments long to figure out ways around the property tax cuts demanded by lawmakers and voters." "Our position: Local governments are insulting taxpayers with their fees".
"Running out of ballots"
"It's a simple question with no simple answer: Why do polling places across America keep running out of ballots when it's no secret that this contentious primary season keeps breaking voter turnout records?" "High turnouts mean polls may run short of ballots".
Stories and commentary we missed yesterday:
- The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "An elected state education commissioner could unravel reforms".
- "Now, having gone through a series of cuts earlier this budget year and with the Legislature looking at $2 billion or more in new cuts, some state agencies and local programs feel like they are facing their final overload." "Agencies gird for new cuts".
- "Budget shortfall dictating choices".
- "With four weeks gone in Florida's legislative session and four weeks to go, little in the way of meaningful legislation has made its way into law. And it could stay that way." "Slots pros, cons round political turn in U.S. race".
- The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Florida lawmakers take time to apologize for slavery".
- "A little-known panel of lawyers, lobbyists and ex-legislators is on the verge of placing some of the most transformative tax-and-spending changes in decades on the November ballot." "Tax changes could sock your wallet in some new ways".
- "Tampa Bay area legislators work to get funding for local projects".
- The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board writes that "At last, some meaningful change to FCAT": "The Florida Legislature is poised to finally make meaningful change to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which ranks right up there with hurricanes and traffic as the most despised aspects of Florida life. The change unanimously passed by the Florida Senate — and the House needs to quickly follow suit — would alter the way high schools are graded. Instead of only using the FCAT to determine a school's grade, other elements — including significant barometers like graduation rates and graduation rates of at-risk students, plus SAT and ACT scores — will be included in determining a school's overall grade."