"Florida's governor and legislators blame a drop in sales-tax revenue caused by the ailing economy for the multibillion-dollar deficits the state's facing this year and next."
But bad management, rash decisions and political cowardice on their part also have played a role. Mr. Crist and the Republican-led Legislature need to abandon those worst practices as they go about closing those deficits if the state's to have a chance of achieving fiscal health."The economy's not solely to blame for what ails the state". Psssst ... and there's this little thing about our previous Governor's dismantling of key elements of our public finance system, including elimination in 2006-07 of the "the state's intangibles tax on stocks and investments, worth about $131-million annually" to the state.
So far, they're not giving us much assurance that they will.
They're meticulously and calmly examining all options. Not.
Ewwwww ... gross ...
After everything Florida has suffered over the last decade...
... the thought of this "Howdy Doody Looking Nimrod" in an unsupervised position is too much to bear ..."It's a little premature to pin that title on the 34-year-old GOP representative from Bartow, but there is loads of Buzz about Putnam running for governor in 2014. Step one? Get elected agriculture commissioner in 2010 and have a statewide office to raise his profile until Charlie Crist finishes his second term." "Gov. Adam Putnam?"
Apparently there was no prize for lucky number 100,000
"Florida prison population reaches 100,000". The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "System needs reform".
"Public records show an airport building that a Panhandle college plans to construct with tax money secured by House Speaker Ray Sansom is nearly identical to one the speaker's friend wanted for his jet business, a newspaper reported Sunday." Read more here: "Report: College building tied to Speaker's friend". See also "Documents link Sansom, friend and college".
More Sansom: "House speaker's college job not unique".
"Despite the pounding it has taken as more Floridians lose their jobs, the state's unemployment compensation fund is in pretty good shape." "Jobless fund OK — for now".
Not exactly ...
... a class act: "Crist promoted Palm Beach Judge Jorge Labarga to a seat on a South Florida appellate court last week despite Labarga's comments from the bench last year that judges will get even with lawyers who cross them, even if it takes years."
''When you pick a fight with a judge, ultimately, you are gonna lose. Not today, but five years from now, 10 years from now, six years from now. That judge is going to remember you, always, always,'' Labarga said."Labarga,"
"And, you know, when you do -- there is an old saying that if you go after a judge, you better kill him. Because, like I said, it's true.''
Labarga, who was also among five finalists recommended this month for appointment to the Florida Supreme Court, made his remarks while presiding over an otherwise routine criminal hearing in Palm Beach Circuit Court on May 23, 2007.
an activist with the Cuban American Republican Club before he became a judge, is best known for his role in the 2000 presidential recount."New appellate judge says he never forgets".
In one case, Labarga ruled the county's canvassing board could not arbitrarily toss out all votes with ''dimpled chads,'' and could decide whether each dimple constituted a vote. In another, he rejected a plea for a revote by voters who said the county's unique butterfly ballot was so confusing that the election was unfair.
Enough with the "Sand N - - - - -" talk
"An internal investigation at the Department of Children and Families has turned up startling reports of racist remarks being casually tossed around by some managers at the agency's huge computer complex in Tallahassee." "Investigation reveals racist remarks at Florida Department of Children and Families".
"Journalists" all atwitter
"Carole Crist easily stepped into her public role as Florida's new first lady with a glowing smile and engaging eyes as she handed out gift-wrapped books to foster children Sunday at the governor's mansion." "Florida's new first lady begins public life". See also "Florida's new first lady makes public debut".
Never mind the pay cut
"Crist decided Friday to give state employees a couple of paid days off — one on the day after Christmas and one the day after New Year's Day — to show his appreciation for their work all year." "Crist gives two days off to state employees over the holidays".
Speaking of state employees
Bill Cotterell: "Judging from attitudes commonly expressed by legislators, a lot of their constituents — whether they fear losing their jobs or not — think government at all levels is fat, lazy and expensive."
But the Department of Management Services recently issued its Annual Workforce Report, with some numbers that legislators ought to consider."Somebody needs to pull for state workers".
For last year, the average State Personnel System salary was $38,313 — 3.78 percent below the average wage for all industries in Florida. And that's including Senior Management and Selected Exempt. The average salary in Career Service actually went down by $152 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, while inflation went up 3.7 percent. ...
Florida ranks last in per-capita cost of state payroll, at $36 per citizen, and last in its ratio of full-time state employees to population — 118 employees per 10,000 residents. The DMS report said the number of authorized positions in all pay plans rose from 168,796 in 2004 to 173,486 last June 30, but almost all of that was in the university system (which gained 3,635 positions) and court administration (up 1,578).
Career Service positions declined by 788 over four-and-a-half years.
Back at the ranch: "AP study finds $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs" ("The 116 banks that so far have received taxpayer dollars to boost them through the economic crisis gave their top tier of executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses and other benefits in 2007, an Associated Press analysis found.")
No such luck
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board writes that "Republicans control the Florida Legislature and the Governor's Mansion. As of Oct. 6, there were more than 4 million voters registered as Republicans across the state (and 4.7 million Democrats.) But when Florida's members of the Electoral College met Monday to cast their ballots,"
it was as if those Republicans didn't exist.No such luck.
"Four years ago the party was a financially strapped punch line"
Aaron Deslatte: "Remember when state Democrats could barely keep the lights on at their headquarters in Tallahassee? Four years ago the party was a financially strapped punch line. This election, Florida Democrats managed to employ 675 staffers and spend more than $19 million with the help of the Barack Obama camp to register and turn out voters -- without going bankrupt in the process." "Florida Democrats' technology closes gap with GOP".
DOJ says Florida "No. 1 in one category: corruption"
"Tired of seeing Florida constantly at the bottom of national rankings? Take heart. The Department of Justice says we're No. 1 in one category: corruption."
Compiling federal corruption convictions over the past decade, Florida topped every other state with 824 convictions of local, state and federal officials — even Rod Blagojevich's Illinois and even Louisiana, where politicians are said to be so crooked they are screwed into the ground at burial."Florida wears U.S. corruption crown".
NO NEW TAXES!!!
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board has some less than dramatic suggestions for Charlie and the Jebbite dead enders in Tally: there are "options state leaders could consider during January's special session that would have an immediate impact on Florida's finances this year and next. None of these changes alone will solve this year's budget shortfall, but they would help shrink it and put the state in better shape for 2009-10:"
• Raise cigarette taxes by $1, raising an estimated $700-million to $1-billion annually. ...Details here: "A Better Way for Florida's Budget".
• Increase the state's gasoline tax, now about 27 cents per gallon. ...
• Approve a gambling compact with the Seminole Indian tribe. ...
• Lift restrictions on local school boards' discretionary taxing authority.
Gelber for Senate?
Adam Smith: "Among the often-mentioned Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in 2010, state Sen. Dan Gelber may lack the money-raising ability of U.S. Reps. Allen Boyd of Monticello or Ron Klein of Boca Raton, or Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, but the Miami Beach Democrat has a couple key assets the others lack." See what he means here: "Gelber's wing man".
"The least qualified and most ideological nominee available"
"If Gov. Charlie Crist appoints Frank Jimenez to the Florida Supreme Court,"
he will be selecting the least qualified and most ideological nominee available. Jimenez is a Cuban-American and would add diversity to a court that now lacks a Hispanic justice. But in this case, diversity would be a pretext for stacking the Supreme Court with political conservatives and abandoning its centrist history."Nominee wrong for high court".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board writes that "Earlier this month, state Rep. Franklin Sands, the new House Democratic leader, voiced righteous indignation about the porkalicious antics of Speaker Ray Sansom. And now Sands has some explaining of his own to do. An investigation by The Palm Beach Post claims that Sands and others have been making heavy-handed 'pay-to-play' calls to House Democrats looking for choice committee assignments." "Pay-to-play politics no way to serve state".
Background: "Contribution calls cause unease in Democratic Party".
So much for Charlie's "Anti-Murder" law
"Orlando area breaks all-time murder record".
"Disappointment may be in store ..."
"Disappointment may be in store for those hoping that Gov. Charlie Crist's Cover Florida health plans will solve the problem of unaffordable health care for the state's 3.8 million uninsured adults." "Crist's health-coverage fix likely isn't, experts predict". See also "Covering Florida, one uninsured person at a time".
"Presidential election a boon for gun shop owners".
Presidential Transition Health Policy Team meet in Tally tonight
"The Presidential Transition Health Policy Team has created a national effort to learn what changes Americans want to see in health-care policy and practices. Tallahassee is one of the cities that will be hosting a community discussion forum. It will be at 6 p.m. today in the ballroom of the Marriott Residence Inn on West Gaines Street at Railroad Avenue. The two-hour forum is open to the public." "DObama's health-policy team to hold meeting in Tallahassee tonight".
Don't our boys in blue have better things to do?
County Judge Belle Schumann was right to rule in June that individuals using public bathroom stalls have a right to privacy. That order revolved around the case of Kenneth Halpin, who was in a bathroom stall making odd noises when Volusia County Beach Patrol Capt. Rich Gardner occupied the stall next to Halpin's, according to the arrest report. Halpin gestured with his foot, coughed, made what sounded like zipper noises. In Gardner's judgment, those were signals to Gardner to engage in a sexual act. Gardner reciprocated by gesturing with his foot, too."Improbable cause in mall sting".
Then Gardner left his stall and spied into Halpin's, at which point he noticed Halpin masturbating. It's not exactly clear who opened the door, but Halpin was immediately arrested. Halpin contends, and the judge agreed, that Halpin had "an objective and subjective expectation of privacy in the closed stall, and that Capt. Gardner lacked probable cause or suspicion that he was using the facility for an unlawful purpose to justify 'peeking' into the closed toilet stall."
Pierre Tristam is:
Contrary to popular assumptions, or desires, American journalism isn't dead. It isn't even unwell. It's as good, and sometimes as great, as it's ever been."Compelling journalism persists despite media's business struggle".
"A Miami Herald database of Cuban exiles arriving on the Freedom Flights has attracted thousands of visitors and struck a chord with exiles." "Database of Cuban exiles rekindles memories".
"Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said Tuesday that she was "embarrassed" at the low wages state employees in her office are paid."
Sink said lawmakers had an obligation during the coming months to review the fees government charges for basic services and ending sales-tax exemptions for slews of select industries that have carved out breaks over the years.Sounds like a candidate fur sumthin'.
"It's absurd. You don't do that to people," she said of the potential for work furloughs or pay cuts.
"I think that sends a terrible message, especially in an environment where state employees are so lowly paid."
"The pledges flowed easily from Barack Obama when he stumped for votes in the Sunshine State during the presidential campaign. He supported creating a national catastrophe fund. He also promised federal money for Everglades restoration and a $2 billion budget increase for NASA. Now, just weeks away from taking office, Obama has made it clear that his first priority will be restructuring the nation's devastated economy. What will become of the promises made to Florida, which helped send him to the White House?" "How will Obama's promises play out for Florida?".
Saturday: "Karen Thurman voted to 2nd term as chairwoman of Florida Democratic Party".
Aaron Deslatte: "Thurman said the top legislative targets are where Obama won or came close."
On the House side, those would be seats held by term-limited Reps. Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, Ed Homan, R-Tampa, and Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach.In the meantime, Thurman said "there will be no break in the 'Empty Chair Charlie' attacks on Crist, whom the party criticizes for taking too many days off. 'We know that we hit a nerve with that,' said Thurman, a former congresswoman who took over party leadership in May 2005. 'We should keep those elected Republicans accountable for what they do and we will be watching every day.'" "Democrats Plan To Go After 'Empty Chair Charlie'".
In the Senate, the targets are the seats of termed-out Sens. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, and Victor Crist, R-Tampa.
Democrats are preparing to make a grab for U.S. Rep. Bill Young's seat in Pinellas County if he retires, the District 16 seat they lost because of Tim Mahoney's sex scandal, and the South Florida seats held by Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
"Charles Brink and sons Christopher, 26, also of Tampa, and Bryan, 33, of Land O' Lakes, have joined the likes of actors Halle Berry and Sharon Stone, and international financier George Soros by each giving the maximum contribution allowed, $50,000."
"Brink, who recently gained millions of dollars by selling his stock in Mona Vie, a beverage company he co-founded, says his family is happy to find itself in the 'financial position to do this.' ... Charles and Christopher Brink say they have met Obama, including at a Miami fundraiser. They were both active this year in political donations, each giving to the presidential campaigns of Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as several state Democratic Party committees, according to the Federal Election Commission." "Tampa Family Gives $150,000 To Honor Obama".
'Ya gotta problem wit' dat?
"The Republican Party of Florida spent more than $45,000 this summer on chauffeurs, a luxury hotel, meals and attractions in London about the same time Gov. Charlie Crist and others traveled there on a trade mission." "State's Republican party slams Crist for London trip".
Might that include benefit increases?
"With thousands of developmentally disabled Floridians and their families protesting cuts to their services, the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities is talking about overhauling its programs." "Disability Benefits Could Get Overhaul". See also "Tribune: Medicaid Strained By Rising Need".
There go them wild eyed libruls again ...
The The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "The message for the mayor, the council and the unions is that the taxpayers deserve to see some correlation between the benefits package for public employees and what is happening in the private sector. Thousands of employers have pared back traditional defined-benefit pensions over the last 10 years as a means to improve their companies' cash flow and remain viable." "Tampa city payroll needs dose of reality".
What the lefties at The Times don't mention is that
The latest 401(k) cutbacks underscore workers’ vulnerability in an age when companies have been replacing defined-benefit pension plans with the newer 401(k) design. Modern 401(k) plans give workers the power to opt in and out and require them to invest their own money, bearing market risk on their own. That may be appealing when the markets are rising, but it can be terrifying when they fall, as they have recently.Nevertheless, the neat thing about defined contribution plans (401(k)s) - which businesses like The Times love so much (after all, their "cheaper" (in every sense of the word)) than real pensions - is that the employee can exercise the majestic "freedom to choose" not to have a retirement plan; these lucky folks can exercise their Milton Friedmanesque-given right to decline the shackles of retirement contributions, lather themselves in "laissez-faire absolutism", and otherwise express their inner "unrestrained ['rugged'] individualism" by investing their 401(k) pennies as they ... you know ... choose.
An employer’s contributions to a traditional pension plan cannot be switched on and off at will. Federal rules set a firm contribution schedule, with deadlines and penalties for companies that fall behind. Employers also get significant tax and accounting benefits from operating a traditional pension plan, so they tend to think long and hard before freezing such a plan to save money when the economy cools.
In a 401(k) plan, by contrast, the employer has much greater freedom to stop making matching contributions when times are tough. The contributions are normally measured as a percentage of payroll, and the savings from any cuts are realized immediately. That greatly simplifies planning and making changes.
Unfortunately, and notwithstanding the foppery of the Dagny Taggart wannabees on Florida's Ayn Randish editorial boards,
Benefits specialists said that if matching contributions continued to dwindle [and there is nothing preventing that in the nonunion sector], fewer newly hired workers could be expected to join 401(k) plans. And employees might eventually slow or stop their contributions if the recession drags on and their own cash runs short."In Need of Cash, More Companies Cut 401(k)Match".
"Crist wants to raid tobacco fund; Chiles assembles legal 'dream team' to fight it".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "On Friday, the 1st District Court of Appeal correctly upheld the trial judge's ruling that awarded the Aug. 26 election to Mr. Abramson over Judge Wennet. But a day earlier, the Florida Supreme Court suspended Mr. Abramson's law license for 91 days. He is supposed to start work the week of Jan. 5, and there is no precedent to determine whether a lawyer who is not in good standing with the Florida Bar can serve as a judge." "Can Abramson be a judge? Supreme Court must decide".
He said it
In an astounding display of raw RPOFer-political courage,
House Finance and Tax Chairman Dean Cannon, R- Winter Park, agreed that lawmakers had "an obligation to look at all the options" to balance next year's budget, including "revenue enhancements"."Good luck.
"Crist crafts way to get out budget of red".
"Tampa Bay Members Of Congress Focus On Economy, Local Needs".
"Search this database to find out how individual precincts voted in the Nov. 4 election." "Tampa Bay Votes". More: "Complete Results" (See the results from 10 Tampa Bay-area counties.)
"President-elect Barack Obama has promised to go through the budget of each federal agency with a fine-tooth comb, and that gets fiscal conservatives like Rep. Allen Boyd excited." "Boyd welcomes tone being set by Obama".
"Raise new taxes or radically slash the size of government"?
Scott Maxwell last week:
Florida's ruling Republican lawmakers, scurrying to prepare for a budget-cutting special session in two weeks, also face a grim fork in the road in the months ahead: raise new taxes or radically slash the size of government.The creativity of these RPOFer thugs is less than impressive: "Crist's office is measuring savings from potential state-employee work furloughs and imposing a pay cut of about 7 percent for most state employees, records show." "Florida faces stark choice: Taxes vs. services".
"Talk about your hollow victories. "
The one that has Gov. Charlie Crist jumping up and down -- the state's agreement this week to buy 181,000 acres from U.S. Sugar to help restore the Everglades -- already is taking on water and struggling to stay afloat."The state gave away too much in deal with Big Sugar".
It didn't have to be this way. The state could have negotiated more-sensible terms. Gov. Crist managed that in September, rejecting a separate $37.5 million, 386-acre land buy needed to build the Wekiva Parkway because it exceeded an appraisal by $9.5 million. The seller eventually unloaded it to the state for less.
But in his haste to seal the $1.34 billion deal for U.S. Sugar's property, Mr. Crist got a review board on Tuesday to ignore appraisals showing the state paying up to $400 million more than the land's worth. He'll find it far more difficult getting credit houses to finance so bloated a land buy -- and at a rate that won't sap the state's ability to fund other critically important restoration and flood control projects in Central and South Florida.
So worried, in fact, are officials who approved the deal of its power to undermine those projects that that they attached an opt-out clause -- just in case.
More from The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "It's time to fix the Everglades plan".
"Lawyers behind Florida tobacco settlement vow to protect Chiles endowment".
Never get between Charlie ...
... and a camera: "Crist to host menorah lighting".
As Tallahassee turns
"Judge Michael E. Allen will stand before the justices of the Florida Supreme Court and take a public reprimand for judicial misconduct. The court on Thursday found Allen violated three canons of the judicial code with his scathing 2006 opinion that accused fellow 1st District Court of Appeal Judge Charles Kahn of a corrupt vote."
Allen, among 10 opinions in a subsequent decision not to send the case to the Supreme Court, wrote a defense of the whole court taking up the case. Allen wrote that Kahn's former law partner, Pensacola attorney Fred Levin, Childers and former Gov. Lawton Chiles, who appointed Kahn to the court, represented a conspiratorial connection. Levin, Childers and Chiles were the chief architects of the state's $13 billion tobacco settlement, with $250 million in fees to Levin's firm."Judge Allen to face reprimand by Supreme Court".
"More suspicious members of the public would have assumed that Judge Kahn had simply returned past favors provided to him by Mr. Levin and Mr. Childers, thus allowing them, once again, to 'snooker the bastards,'" Allen wrote in 2006.
That went too far, the Supreme Court ruled in its 5-0 decision.
"In essence, Judge Allen accused a fellow appellate judge [Kahn] of judicial corruption based on unverified facts that came from outside the record and were not a part of the Childers case," the ruling said.
It has been a real pissing match up at the First DCA. Recall that "Kahn was the subject of a JQC complaint himself, filed by other judges on the 1st District Court. That complaint, which the commission found no probable cause to pursue, accused Kahn of judicial misconduct in his management of court finances and by having extramarital affairs with court staff."
If you remember, there's a handful of wingnuts behind all this; two years ago The Miami Herald reported:
Though newly released emails (as well as friends and family) tie him closely to House Speaker Marco Rubio’s office*, First District Court of Appeal Judge Paul Hawkes** [an open supporter of Judge Allen's (unethical) attack*** on Kahn] said he had nothing to do with the Miami lawmaker’s decision to open an inquiry into fellow 1st DCA Judge Charles Kahn****."Judge: Rubio isn’t my tool in inquiry".
Hawkes’ son, House Counsel Jeremiah Hawkes, emailed a draft of Rubio’s letter Dec. 4 requesting that the Judicial Qualifications Commission share its investigative files on Kahn, who is the target of an as-yet private complaint. The email was sent to an assistant of Rubio’s staff chief, Richard Corcoran, Paul Hawkes’ former legislative aide and consulting partner.
Are all the RPOFers in Tally related? Anyway, it is clear that the ***
- - - - - - - - - -
*For example, "Hawkes’ son, House Counsel Jeremiah Hawkes, emailed a draft of Rubio’s letter Dec. 4 requesting that the Judicial Qualifications Commission share its investigative files on Kahn, who is the target of an as-yet private complaint. The email was sent to an assistant of Rubio’s staff chief, Richard Corcoran, Paul Hawkes’ former legislative aide and consulting partner."
**Hawkes the elder was the fellow whom Martin Dyckman referred to as "a political hatchetman in the House speaker's office when named to the 1st District Court of Appeal at Tallahassee".
***"Here is the e-mail exchange between judges Paul Hawkes and Michael Allen on June 21, 2006, a week before Allen's opinion critical of [Kahn] was published."
Hawkes writes Allen:"Trial begins for judge who criticized colleague".
I think your opinion is very moving. ... I know it took courage. ... I bet that this stand by you will be one of the memories that you take from your service on this court; one of the best memories. Great battles in defense of principles are the very best aspects of public service. I also don't believe that great battles diminish or harm an institution.
Let the battle be joined.
Allen writes back:
Thank you for this note, Paul. You have beautifully crystallized exactly what this is about, though I have my doubts that I will ever recall this "battle'' with any measure of fondness.
Hawkes writes again to Allen:
Not fondness of "the fight,'' but fondness that you fought, and it was difficult, but what you thought was right. Fighting for what is "right,'' especially when it was difficult, is what produces the memories. Most avoid those battles and, as a consequence, erode their own sense of self-respect. Running away causes shame, standing firm produces pride (the good kind).
****Rubio's saber rattling apparently went nowhere.
"Congress should put the federal No Child Left Behind law's requirements and penalties on hold until it is improved and while school district budgets are tight, Broward School Board members said Tuesday." "Broward School Board members seek change in No Child Left Behind law".