"Cover Florida leaves too many exposed to ruin"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board writes today that Charlie's
Cover Florida plans -- unveiled Wednesday -- fall short of the mark. They are uniformly skimpy, with high deductibles, caps and exclusions. At best, the program will shift Floridians from the "uninsured" to "underinsured" categories. At worst, the plans (and an affiliated program that offers stripped-down, small-group policies) could undermine traditional employer-paid insurance, leaving more Floridians subject to the financial meltdown that can accompany health catastrophes."Skimpy health insurance".
Fake health insurance to paper over a real problem. But it will look "good" when Charlie goes for DC in 2012.
Keep it short
MM: "Crist seems oblivious to the tough choices ahead -- choices that can't wait until the Legislature's regular session begins in March. He should be convening a special session of the Legislature -- and not because state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat, says so. Or because several Republicans agree. The honeymoon will have to be short, governor."
Ms. Marquez continues:
First, where not to raid to pretend to be solving Florida's regressive tax-structure problem. Don't touch the Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund to try to make up for a $2.3 billion projected state budget shortfall."Keep the honeymoon short, governor".
That fund was created by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999, using a portion of the $11.2 billion lawsuit settlement from Big Tobacco. Bush's predecessor, Chiles, engineered the deal to pay for children's programs and, later, elderly services. The fund, which needs to recover a $1 billion loss from securities investments in the current roller coaster stock market, already was raided by Crist and the Legislature this spring for $1 billion.
We can't keep taking from children and the elderly -- instead of closing decades-old tax loopholes by targeting certain services -- and call that tax reform
We're getting the same old song and dance: "For the conservative Republicans who run the Legislature, the storm clouds gathering over the state budget have a silver lining — the opportunity to shrink government as never before."
Jim Ash: "Not since former Gov. Jeb Bush uttered his [childish] line about 'emptying' state buildings in his second inaugural address have the budget-cutting proposals been so breathtaking."*
Perhaps "stoopid" is a better way to put it. Ash continues: "Internal correspondence between Gov. Charlie Crist's top budget advisers shows just how drastically the times are shaping the administration's thinking."
"Don't get excited — but I would like to cost out a possible 6.6 percent reduction to state employee salaries — excluding, if possible, university professors only," Crist's budget director, Jerry McDaniel, wrote in an Oct. 24 e-mail to key staff members."Florida budget crunch seen by some as an opportunity to shrink government".
His subsequent overview of proposals doesn't go so far. It considers the option of saving $300 million by furloughing 147,000 state workers for as much as two weeks. ... [as well as]
- Saving $3.97 million by merging the Agency for Health Care Administration with the Department of Health.
- Saving between $5 million and $43 million by either raising the academic standards or "means testing," students who get Bright Futures college scholarships, or saving $436 million by suspending the scholarship program altogether.
- Saving $640 million by eliminating optional services for poor people on Medicaid.
- Saving $300 million by substituting modular buildings for new prison construction.
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board puts it politely: "For too long, our state has run the same old plays. Let rapid growth feed the construction industry. Hope the warm weather lures tourists. Rely only on a sales tax for government revenue. Today, none of those plays is working."
There are sources of revenue available — not even taking into consideration a state income tax, which we're unlikely to see in our lifetimes."Stuck on defense".
An extra $1 tax on cigarettes would raise an estimated $1 billion and could bring with it even more savings in health care. It's almost the perfect tax: It discourages unhealthy behavior, taxes those who choose to engage in that behavior, and would be a temporary income boost, bringing in less income each year as smoking falls out of favor.
The intangibles tax on stocks, bonds and other intangible property — axed back when times were better — was Florida's only progressive tax, affecting mostly the state's most wealthy citizens. Today, it probably would be bringing in another $1 billion; even a few lawmakers are glancing at the possibility of resuming it.
And there are the many sales-tax exemptions that have piled up over the years — and seem sacred, but certainly not all of them are.
So what are our lawmakers and governor now considering to balance the budget?
Dip into the Lawton Chiles Endowment (again), scooping principle from a fund that supports health programs for the children and the elderly. Raid other trust funds. Cut spending in all programs. Furlough state employees for two weeks with no pay — employees who can't remember their last raise. House prison inmates in tents. And no tax increases.
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*We've heard this before from star struck "reporters", haven't we; recall these embarrassing words: Jebbie's "vision is universal and timeless...clear and electrifying as the day's cobalt-blue sky". "Bush Vision for Florida is JFK-Like".
Goin' after the poor newlywed
"The Florida Democratic Party is punching hard: "
"Crist's defense of embattled Speaker Ray Sansom, continued support for his hand picked Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer, and the fact that Crist bundler Harry Sargeant III remains RPOF Finance Chairman proves that while Crist continues smiling for the cameras his out-of-touch optimism and George W. Bush-like inattentiveness have allowed Republican corruption to fester, our economy to tank, and Floridians to suffer,'' party spokesman Eric Jotkoff said in a news release."Partisan crossfire".
Florida's booming prison economy
Troxler: "As of Friday, there were 99,845 inmates in the Florida system, the nation's third-largest, housed in 60 prisons, 41 work or forestry camps, and assorted work-release centers and road prisons." "Is the goal more prison cells or fewer criminals?".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "If there's no deal by Tuesday, U.S. Sugar insists, the company's offer to sell its land to the South Florida Water Management District for $1.34 billion is off. That should be OK with taxpayers. The only way to negotiate a better deal is to stop this one." "Public should not play U.S. Sugar's poker game".
More: "Fanjuls file legal attack against U.S. Sugar sale", "U.S. Sugar deal may be $300 million too expensive, new appraisals say", "Opposition builds as U.S. Sugar vote nears" and "Everglades at a crossroads as vote nears on U.S. sugar deal".
Double standard ...
Remind me why this guy, who once had a promising statewide career...
... was indicted (and ultimately cleared) again?"In the past two years, House Speaker Ray Sansom got $35-million in extra tax dollars for the college where he now works, an exceptional feat in tightening budget times. But that may not have been his biggest gift to Northwest Florida State College."
Plotting behind the scenes with the college president who would become his boss, Samson pushed legislation last spring that created a new, exclusive tier of local colleges that could offer an array of bachelor's degrees. Along the way, the pair arranged a secretive meeting that skirted Florida's Sunshine laws."Sansom, college boss plotted for new law".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board points out that Sansom "also abused his position to help out a buddy whose companies have contributed, according to the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau, more than $116,000 to Rep. Sansom's campaigns or to political accounts under Rep. Sansom's control." "Sansom's credibility gone".
"How hard is it to talk about sacrifice and fiscal discipline when your own GOP House leader, Ray Sansom, has funneled millions of dollars to a community college that turned around and hired him for a $110,000 job?" "Sansom's new job puts strain on GOP".
And then there's this: "Republicans' high cost of governing".
"Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman"
seemed to have a campaign on her hands until former Miami-Dade Democratic leader Bret Berlin dropped out last week, just a week after he got in the race. Apparently, he decided there wasn't enough time before the party's meeting in Orlando on Saturday. ..."Democrats look to 2010".
The state party "spent more than $9 million on legislative campaigns but managed to gain only one seat in the state House," Berlin said last week.
But the Democratic insurrection seems over -- replaced by anticipation of 2010.
That's when the party will compete for an open U.S. Senate seat and 22 term-limited seats held by Republicans in the Florida House -- an opportunity potentially equal to 2006, when they gained eight seats.
Earth to Charlie ...
"On a cold night under a full moon, Florida found itself a new first lady - and a governor who, now married, can truly aspire to a national office. 'It's a great night for Florida and a great night for us,' a beaming Gov. Charlie Crist told the press Friday as he and his new bride, multimillionaire socialite Carole Rome, exited the First United Methodist Church." "'Great night for Florida,' Crist declares".
While Charlie heterosexes it up in Tally ...
Randy Schultz: "Florida has financial problems, real-estate problems, employment problems and leadership problems. But this ban is a moral problem, even though backers claim that it maintains some sort of higher moral order in Florida. 'Gays can love and care, but what is best for the children?' asked John Stemberger, the personal injury lawyer who heads up the Florida Family Policy Council and led the campaign for the same-sex marriage ban. Gay and lesbian adoption, he said, is 'not best for society.' For that argument to be true, however, society would have to want to hurt children." "No home for gay adoption ban".
"We should be ashamed"
Bill Maxwell last week: "We should be ashamed."
One of the most abused groups of farmworkers is Florida's tomato pickers, who earn the same amount for a bucket of tomatoes, about 45 cents, as they have earned since 1978. Florida's fresh tomato crop is worth $619-million annually. ..."Shameful exploitation".
During a U.S. Senate hearing in April focused on working conditions for Florida farmworkers, McDonald's and Yum Brands, which includes Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, A&W and Long John Silver's, agreed to pay the 1-cent increase. Then, Burger King agreed. Most recently, Subway, with 24,000 U.S. stores, agreed to match Burger King and ante up an additional 1.5 cents per pound to cover administrative costs and guarantee that at least a penny will be reserved for workers. Subway went further by insisting on a monitoring system to ensure that the penny reaches the pickers.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., an outspoken advocate for the cause of Florida farmworkers and a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said of the Subway action: "This agreement between Subway and the (CIW) is yet another blow to the scourge of slavery that continues to exist in the tomato fields of Florida. Subway is to be congratulated for moving to ensure that none of its products are harvested by slave or near-slave labor. Sadly, too many other companies continue to tolerate this travesty."
You know you're a RPOFer when ...
"CHUMUCKLA, Fla. (AP) -- Thousands are expected this weekend at a Panhandle holiday celebration with a redneck twist." "Fla. festival celebrates 'Redneck Christmas'".
In Pasco County, no less ...
"The first shot of the 2010 election didn't show up on TV, in the mail or a press release. To County Commissioner Michael Cox and the Democratic Party leadership, the blow came from the commission dais in usually quiet December." "Partisan fighting gets off to early start".
Aaron Deslatte: "Jim Greer's hopes of remaining the chief of the Florida Republican Party may hinge on a mysterious crate of cigars and $2.5 million in American Express charges."
At the GOP annual meeting at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort next month, Greer is facing a serious challenge from Martin County Republican Eric Miller, an information-technology guru alleging that Greer's financial management is "irresponsible" and may have played a role in John McCain's defeat in the state by Barack Obama."Big spending clouds future for cigar-loving GOP boss".
Critics complain that while Obama was pouring $70 million into a Florida victory, the state Republican Party was running up credit-card charges totaling $2.5 million this year without disclosing to the public or party donors what they bought. (The law doesn't require that receipts be filed for expenditures.)
The charges left many rank-and-file Republicans suspicious, given Greer's penchant for limo rides, private jets and fine cigars. According to Miller, several prominent GOP donors are mulling a lawsuit to force a forensic audit of the party.
The Tallahassee Democrat's Mary Ann Lindley:
The newspaper business continues to represent for me the romance, fever, beauty and power of language and human experience. ..."Journalism's future unclear, but not its calling".
No question, journalism is changing. That is not a news flash.
We are a newspaper segueing into a "media company"; a newsroom that has become an "information center," a digital online product breaking news as it happens, and we are still not close to perfecting — though some of us are stubbornly trying — a genuinely new literary form: the blog.
Blogs, as with all forms of Internet communication, are loaded with fiction, fact and factlets, immediacy, intimacy and sometimes brief fame, depending on the trumpeting persistence of their authors.
And the online world is already gridlocked with them.
Though the form is new, the challenge of learning, verifying, reporting, filtering and, in a way, tailoring all the news and information, insight and opinion that is available at any given nanosecond into something that fits some printed pages meant for you, dear reader, and you alone has long been the challenge of writers and editors.
Fathoming what matters most, what people want to know and what they need to know as informed citizens in any given market is the challenge that isn't ending just because the venue of information delivery is changing from what it's always been to — well, that elusive next thing.
Right now, everyone is speaking at once. The roar of information is deafening and unclear; the future of newspapers is a story still being written.
I don't believe the ship is sinking, but it is in rocky waters just now.
Fortunately, there are lifeboats filled with young men and women who still believe in the mission and value of journalism and the First Amendment that endows it; who understand that language is still a powerful and beautiful force of nature.
A Third World thing
"Officials say a 12-year-old Daytona Beach boy found dead in his bed likely died of chickenpox." "Fla. boy's death may be linked to chickenpox".
Run (away), Jim, run!
"Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer has done little to position himself for a run for RNC chairman. But he hasn't closed the door on running, and he has been invited by Americans for Tax Reform to a debate of candidates for RNC leader on Jan. 5." "Gunning for RNC boss".
What housing crisis?
"Cops hunt mom, young girl who lived in beach pit".
Mike Thomas whines: "Why can't we get rail? One word: Boneheads". The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "We think: Commuter rail's back on track thanks to efforts of local leaders".
RPOFers at work: "do nothing and hope for a miracle"
Ernie Padgett, a former county administrator and commissioner with more than 30 years' experience in Florida government, who retired to Marianna last year after 12 years as Manatee County administrator:
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has asked the governor and legislative leaders to call a special session to address the financial crisis. I agree with her. Doing nothing until next March, when the Legislature is due to go into regular session, is not an option."State Needs Budget Bravery, Not A Fixation On A Miracle".
New House Speaker Ray Sansom shares the governor's lack of leadership approach in raiding trust funds and spending down the reserves. Sansom recently stated, "My hope is we'll have enough money in trust funds to keep the budget balanced for the entire year."
They are using nonrecurring dollars to fund recurring operational expenses. This is budgeting at its worst. A prime example of do nothing and hope for a miracle.
Funding for education, health care, law enforcement and corrections is being cut to unacceptable levels, compliments of the do-nothing officials in Tallahassee who are hoping for a miracle.
Jeez, I feel safe reading this Tampa Trib headline: "Crist Promises He Will 'Fight For Florida' In 2009".
More alleged "journalism" from Florida's inked stained wretches: "Caviar At Crist Reception Will Come From Mote Aquaculture Park" and "Crist Says 'I Do' In St. Pete".
"Questions remain about proposed biomass plan".
"Add the University of Florida to the list of places feeling the effects of a sagging economy." "UF says endowment lost $104M this quarter".