The St. Petersburg Times editorial board give us a wishy washy editorial this morning about an apparent abuse of earmarking power by RPOFer Rep. C.W. Bill Young:
Young, who was chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee for six years and hasn't lost his earmarking ability, has directed nearly $45-million in federal money to defense contractor Science Applications International Corp. That's the same company that hired his son, Patrick Young, about a year ago in its St. Petersburg office ... .The editors take on all this is less than impressive:
Patrick Young works with intelligence data that requires a high-level security clearance, which would seem to be a unique opportunity for a 20-year-old with only a GED degree and scant work experience. And that's not the only link between the congressman's largesse and a son. Young has directed more than $28-million over nine years to the National Forensic Science Technology Center in Largo where son Billy Young, 23, has been employed for less than a year. The earmarks arrived before and after the sons were hired.
Maybe Young's long years in the ethically challenged world of the Capitol have finally [sic] dulled his sense of propriety. Back in Pinellas County, which is admittedly a nicer place because of Young, we should — and do — expect more of our politicians. Young should leave it to others to decide whether his sons' employers deserve millions in tax dollars."Rep. Young's troublesome earmarks".
And so the negotiations begin
"House members voted 72-41 to approve the budget, the final step before starting negotiations with the Senate on a spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1."
The Senate passed its $65.9 billion budget proposal Wednesday."House backs off nursing-home cut". See also "House Approves Slashed Budget", "Deepest cuts in government services for decades" and "Legislators ready budget axe: Schools, Everglades, sports teams".
Democrats opposed the House budget in a party-line vote, saying it will hurt vulnerable people. The proposal includes cutting $219 million next year from public schools and slashing about $1 billion from health and human-services programs.
Not everyone took a hit: "While programs for children and healthcare were cut, [big sugar funded RPOFer] lawmakers found money for pet projects such as a train that would benefit the sugar industry." "'Sugar train' outruns the budget ax".
And then there was the usual display of RPOFer petulance - "House passes $65 billion budget, gets tongue-lashing from Hasner": "A divided House approved a state budget Thursday, but not before Majority Leader Adam Hasner blasted Democrats who he said did little but 'point fingers, play games and hold press conferences.'" And then he took his ball and went home."
Hypocritical pig at the trough
The Tampa Tribune editorial board gets in in the Haridopolos hypocrisy: Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R - Gasbag, has a
propensity to feed at the public trough."This is not an isolated case."
Haridopolos recently landed a $75,000-a-year job as a University of Florida guest lecturer. He will be paid $5,000 more than his predecessor, though he has no doctorate. Two other lecturers with Ph.Ds in the same department make less than $50,000.
They, of course, are not scheduled to become Senate president in 2010. Haridopolos is.
After Haridopolos was elected to the Senate in 2003, Brevard Community College, where he taught history, offered a sweet deal. The Orlando Sentinel reports the school paid him $38,000 a year to write a book, so he wouldn't have to teach."Haridopolos Gobbles Tax Dollars".
Scholars say the arrangement is extraordinary.
Haridopolos' six-chapter, 175-page book is complete but has yet to be published - understandable, given its banal political advice, such as "a cell phone will be essential."
The end of an era. Having spent more than five years reading the editorial pages of every newspaper in Florida on a daily basis (except the Times-Union which I simply cannot abide), I can say without reservation that the sale of the News-Journal will be a tragedy.
"Management of the News-Journal Corp. announced Thursday to its 794 employees that the local newspaper owned primarily by the Davidson family for 79 years will be sold on the open market."
"We do not yet know the form this sale will take or the timing, but we know that it will be sold as a going and continuing business," the memo from the newspaper's management states."News-Journal to be sold". See also "Daytona Beach newspaper to be put up for sale" and "Daytona Beach News-Journal to be sold after dispute".
"I would like to emphasize that whatever happens, this business will continue operating as a going concern," Georgia M. Kaney, president/CEO and publisher added later. "It will not close or stop doing business."
The announcement on the decision to pursue a sale to the highest bidder was the latest news in the company's lengthy court battle with Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, which has owned 47.5 percent of the News-Journal since 1969.
"A party activist from Tampa has revived a lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee and a Panhandle voter is separately suing the state over its role in Florida's presidential primary mess. Victor DiMaio's suit challenging the party's decision to strip Florida of its delegates to the Democratic National Convention was thrown out of U.S. District Court in Tampa. But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a ruling last month, gave DiMaio an opening to amend and refile it, which he did Wednesday." "Activist revives delegate suit, voter challenges primary law".
Bloody Juan's booty
"With the state desperate for cash to balance its budget, one lawmaker has come up with a solution worthy of Blackbeard or Captain Kidd.Rep. Juan Zapata wants to plunder Florida's booty. One of the world's largest publicly owned collections of Spanish treasure - doubloons and other coins, some gold and silver ingots and chains - belongs to the state." "One lawmaker has budget solution: Plunder Florida's treasure". See also "Lawmaker: State's treasure could ease budget mess".
Bloody Bill on space
"Florida's two U.S. senators want NASA to consider existing launch locations for a private commercial launch facility, rather than expanding into previously unused areas at Kennedy Space Center." "Senators: Reuse old launch sites".
"A measure that would enhance penalties for known gang members moved one step closer to passage Thursday when a Senate panel unanimously approved it on its last committee stop before going to the Senate floor." "Senate panel OKs tougher gang penalties".
The Tampa Trib editors: "Florida Republicans have such an irrational fear of being accused of raising taxes that they won't think about closing loopholes that are increasingly unfair to Florida-based businesses."
Florida allows multistate businesses to shelter Florida income in other states. This makes the effective income-tax rate on small Florida businesses higher than the rate paid by corporations sheltering income elsewhere."Tax Phobia In Tallahassee Protects Huge, Unfair Loopholes".
A company can reduce its tax bill by paying rent to an out-of-state subsidiary. Or it might send profits, on paper, out of state to pay itself for its own patents and trademarks.
Rep. Dan Geller, a Miami Beach Democrat, says closing the loophole with a technique called "combined reporting" would raise $365 million a year. Many other states already use the approach, so technical and constitutional issues have been ironed out.
Critics say the change would send a message that Florida doesn't want big companies to locate here. But it is neither good politics nor smart economics to charge Florida businesses more than is charged the interstate rivals who already enjoy economies of scale.
"As the economy slides further toward recession, lawmakers in Tallahassee are busy crafting proposals to spur growth and draw new businesses to Florida, even as they face pressure to scale back incentives because of budget restraints." "Legislators look at ways to spur economy".
Lawson on fire
"Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, a former college basketball player, on Thursday continued blasting the insurance changes proposed by Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, and Sen. Steve Geller, D-Cooper City."
Lawson has voted against their bill twice in separate committee hearings, opposing the premium freeze for Citizens Property Insurance coastal customers and the tighter restrictions on the private market. The bill (SB 2680) was debated by the full Senate and Lawson found himself up against a third powerful foe: Senate Republican Whip Mike Fasano of New Port Richey.He continued:
"Boy, if you ever want to see a South Florida conspiracy, this is one," Lawson said on the Senate floor. "They're all in bed together. You can't tell them apart if they were in a bed. They all look like twins."
"Once the train starts rolling it's never going to stop," he said. "No matter how they paint the picture, no matter how these members come together and tell you you're going to save money, you're not going to save money."And for that, Lawson was rebuked?:
Lawson's outburst drew a quick rebuke from Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, in his 22nd year in the legislature."Senator takes aim at leaders of property-insurance changes". See also "Proposals could make or break state insurer" and "Senate Debates Strict Standards For Insurers".
King said Lawson should avoid floor debate that "casts aspersions or doubts of credibility on another member."
Chillax you fans of corporate welfare ...
... "with no companion budget cut in the Senate and commitment on the part of House leaders unclear, however, the proposal faces an uphill battle for survival." "Senate Debates Strict Standards For Insurers".
The Palm Beach Post editors think "it's stupid to recycle mentally ill people through Florida's criminal justice system when, for millions less, they could receive effective treatment that cuts the crime rate." "Save money, cut crime; treat the mentally ill".
Met his match
Bob Butterworth "has met his match:"
an intransigent Legislature that is pursuing what he called the equivalent of taking out a ''contract on kids.'' He said the budget they are pursuing destroys the state's public safety net by cutting programs deeply rather than tapping the state's $1.3 billion emergency fund, or closing corporate-tax loopholes."Butterworth slams cuts in social services".
''In my 40 years in public service, this is the worst year I've ever seen, the meanest I've ever seen,'' Butterworth told The Miami Herald as the House was completing debate on its $65 billion budget proposal.
Ronda to the wrescue
She said it: "'I'm ... not concerned about engaging in political one-upmanship," Storms said." "Storms Fights Byrd-USF Deal".
Not so "no-nonsense"
The Miami Herald: "Why is a final audit on Wackenhut Corp.'s security services at Metrorail stations and the Juvenile Assessment Center taking so long? The county's auditing staff finished the review 19 months ago, but Miami-Dade's chief auditor, Cathy Jackson, is keeping the report under wraps. This delay is uncharacteristic of Ms. Jackson, a no-nonsense professional who has conducted even-handed audits for many years on behalf of the county's taxpayers." "Answers needed on overbilling claims".
"No monetary value"
"Politicians and other VIPs can receive special passes that let them cut in line at popular rides at Walt Disney World."
Disney says the passes have no monetary value and so are not restricted by government ethics laws and do not have to be reported either as gifts to public officials or as a lobbying expense. Prunty would not identify any of the people who have gotten the passes."Disney giving special 'FastPasses' to politicians, VIPs".
Charlie goes down
"Crist approval rating falls to 59%".
Mark Lane sets the record straight
"Myth 1: Florida is about average in school spending. "
Not even close. If you count all forms of spending, national, state and local, and divide by the number of students, our rank is 34th. Our rank in funding from the state is 42. Our rank in state spending as a share of personal income is a particularly lousy 47th place, which actually is an improvement.Lane explodes five other education myths here: "Crunching numbers and myths".
Big of him
"Crist approves $1.25 million for man cleared after 24 years in prison".
"Both bills have big problems"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Florida Forever, the state's 2-decades-old land-buying program, faces a tough time getting money. This year's tight budget, however, does not justify a bad compromise Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson is touring the state, pushing his plan to snag 5''percent of Florida Forever money to buy easements on "working lands." Those could include farmlands, or, with amendments to Senate Bill 542 and House Bill ENRC 08-09, marinas on state lands. It's a bad idea, and both bills have big problems." "Preserve Florida Forever".
"Only in the parallel universe of the Hillsborough County Commission would the chaplain of this august body take the lead in opposing a daylong student observance promoting the revolutionary concept of (oh, dear) - tolerance." "Bishop Blair Issues Fatwa On Silence".
Haven't Floridians already had "the bait and switch of the century"
"As a new statewide poll reveals lukewarm support for a major tax shift in Florida,"
Republican senators blasted the idea Thursday as "the bait and switch of the century" that would force them to increase taxes."At the Capitol, Sen. Mike Haridopolos, a Melbourne Republican who heads the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, led the charge in attacking the proposal as"
The poll and the criticism take aim at a proposal by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission set to appear on the November ballot.
Voters would be asked to eliminate more than $8-billion a year in property taxes for schools and force the Legislature to make up the difference by increasing the sales tax 1 cent, repealing sales tax exemptions and cutting programs.
A Quinnipiac University poll found that 48 percent of voters support the idea with 41 percent opposed and 11 percent undecided. The 48 percent in favor is below the 60 percent threshold needed for passage of a constitutional amendment.
"the largest tax increase in history.""Republicans blast tax shift proposal" ("Quinnipiac surveyed 1,215 voters April 7-8, and the poll had a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.").
Haridopolos is in line to become Senate president in 2010, and likely would be at the forefront of having to find the replacement revenue. He's among a group of Florida lawmakers who have signed a pledge not to raise taxes.
Haridopolos' math works like this: To avoid raising taxes, legislators would have to eliminate the largest sales tax exemptions other than the sacred ones for groceries, rent and prescription drugs.
The remaining exemptions include the value of trade-ins toward new car purchases, government supply purchases, the purchase of fuel by utilities and for metered water.
"You will start to tax items that are not currently taxed. By any definition, that's a tax increase," Haridopolos said. He said he has written three letters to the tax commission over the past two weeks but has received no reply.
"Some people might be able to get cheaper, no-frills health insurance policies under legislation that advanced in both the House and Senate. A proposal being pushed by Gov. Charlie Crist would allow insurance companies and health plans to offer policies aimed at providing basic and preventive care. Such policies would be cheaper because they wouldn't be burdened with the requirements of more comprehensive health insurance policies." "Health insurance option on the table".
Where' chain gang Charlie on this?
Elisa Cramer: "Timothy Kane and Kenneth Young are among the 713 inmates in Florida prisons who were 16 years old or younger when they committed crimes. A proposal going nowhere in the Legislature would give some of those 713 inmates the opportunity of parole." "State passing on a no-brainer".
"Gutting the state's growth-management law"
The Palm Beach Post editors: "House Republicans may think they would do bad developers a big favor by gutting the state's growth-management law. In fact, they would cause a citizen uprising that could backfire on all developers." "Protect growth control".
"Economy goes south"
"More residents seek food stamps as economy goes south".
It's the RPOFers, stupid
The Tampa Tribune editorial board can't bring themselves to say that it is the RPOF controlled legislature: "The Florida Legislature has demonstrated it will crawl whenever the National Rifle Association commands." "Lawmakers Blast Hole In Property Rights".
The St. Pete Times editors are on the mark: "The National Rifle Association owns the Florida Republican Party lock, stock and barrel." "Gun zealots put Floridians at risk".
In any event, Charlie's expected to sign this thing and "about 500,000 Floridians with concealed-weapons permits will soon be able to carry guns to work as long as they keep them in their cars." "Sentinel: Soon, 500,000 Floridians can take guns to work". See also "Gun bill opponents pressure Crist".
Lottery sales down
"Lotto sales aren't meeting projections and that means less cash to bail out education. What's more, the lower predictions complicate an already dismal budget outlook in Tallahassee." "No jackpot for schools".