Jane Healy: "When legislators last week wrapped up their special session, whacking $2.3 billion out of the state budget, it was only a preview of the dangers that lurk for the regular session, which begins in March. They may have to cut billions more, and could take action for all the wrong reasons."
"Danger No. 1: Gov. Charlie Crist and legislators [read: RPOFers] continue to put crass politics ahead of leadership."
By raiding reserves and trust funds, legislators were able to escape the special session without having to seriously consider raising taxes. Raiding those dollars, particularly the trust funds that were set aside for future needs, could prove devastating in the years to come. But that was easier than facing down some of the most powerful lobbyists in Tallahassee, those representing the tobacco, alcohol and gambling industries, wasn't it? Those were obvious places to raise taxes in ways that could even have a positive effect on health. Raising cigarette taxes, for instance, would surely reduce the amount of smoking."... But equally dangerous is legislators' habit of putting the next election ahead of the greater good. The most disappointing example of this [for those, like Healy, who bought into Jebbie's sales pitch] came in 2006"
when then-Gov. Jeb Bush flip-flopped on his support for a referendum on a rental-car surcharge. It made sense for Bush to back the idea. After all, he wasn't supporting the surcharge itself, just the chance for residents here to vote on it. The money would have significantly helped pay for transportation projects, including commuter rail.Desperate to appear "balanced", particularly after daring to briefly deviate from the Jeb-worship appearing on the pages of the Tribune, now Xell Corporation editorial pages, Healy next gives us this pap:
But when it came time to sign the bill, Bush vetoed it. What a coincidence that this came at the same time that the term-limited Bush was being talked about as a potential vice-presidential pick. And at the same time that national anti-tax activists influential with the Bushes started to raise a fuss about the surcharge.
It's not just Republicans who are afraid to raise taxes or go after their opponents on taxes. In 1996 Bill Clinton hammered Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole on his support for certain taxes, even though tax increases are almost impossible to avoid for anyone who has been in Congress very long. Barack Obama even went after John McCain on taxes.."Two big dangers lurk for Florida".
The Florida Legislature [read the RPOFer-controlled Florida Legislature] doesn't seem to want to touch taxes that aren't even an increase. Taxing Internet sales, for example, is something already on the books but is not enforced. So law-abiding retailers who pay the tax are put at a disadvantage to others who don't. That's not fair and it's outrageous that legislators would treat their own state's businesses like this.
Healy's other big danger?: "The bad economy is used as an excuse for boondoggles."
Mary Ellen Klas, of the efficient "Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau", writes that "Florida's threadbare state budget, now cut by more than $8-billion since July 2007, has Republican legislators talking about what until now was reviled as heresy:"
taxes.On the agenda for the March regular session is a discussion of a cigarette tax increase of between 50 cents and $1, taxing all Internet sales in Florida, eliminating sales tax exemptions and closing tax loopholes."As revenue shrinks, Florida GOP lawmakers talk of taxes". See also "Cash woes leave Fla. in a lurch".
There is no agreement on whether to impose any of these taxes. But tax-averse legislators — who resisted talk of taxes for nearly 20 years and campaigned on promises of tax cuts — have reached near-agreement on one thing: Two years of budget cuts culminating in last week's $2.4-billion reduction have hit bone. Worse, they say, is a $3.5-billion shortfall next year that they'll have to fill to avoid deeper cuts to education and health care.
Earth to Charlie
Aaron Deslatte: "The Republicans who run the Florida Legislature and the Republican who commands the governor's office are living in two different worlds." "Crist, Legislature inhabit separate realities".
Rumor has it ...
Although "Crist continues to politely demur", "Crist for U.S. Senate?", rumor has it that a decision to run is pretty much a go. Seems Charlie's looking for the right time to float the balloon and announce.
Meantime, "Sizing up the Dem senate field".
Mary Ann Lindley: "The school chiefs are going through spending withdrawal, facing the bitter realities of their current budgets, which are beginning to look like a Tiffany's window compared with next year's financial prognosis." "Education revolution? First, it will get worse".
'Ya gotta love it when these "liberals" like the The Palm Beach Post's Dan Moffett do the math: 500 dead trade unionists in 8 years is better than 2100 killed in 16 years, so labor's opposition to a trade giveaway deal with Columbia is obviously a pretext for mere "old-fashioned protectionism".
Moffett puts it this way:
Ostensibly, the [union] opposition was about the murders of 500 Colombian trade unionists since President Uribe took office [8 years ago]. But in the 16 years before his inauguration, more than 2,100 unionists were killed. So, Mr. Uribe has made progress."Let Colombia trade Bush's prize".
In fact, American unions oppose most free-trade agreements and concerns over human rights are secondary to old-fashioned protectionism. President-elect Obama campaigned against last year's bill but said he would consider a rewritten version with more protections for U.S. workers and Colombian unionists.
Florida has a lot riding on a deal. Most Colombian goods come into Florida duty-free, and the main benefit of a deal here would be eliminating tariffs that limit exports to the country and restrict a growing market.
More than 1.1 million Colombian immigrants live in the United States, 375,000 of them in Florida and 150,000 in South Florida. The potential for new commerce is great.
A regular brain trust
"With Cannon set, Republicans can turn their attention to designating speakers for 2012-14, which Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has nailed down, and 2014-16, for which Rep. Chris Dorworth, R- Lake Mary, is a leading candidate." "No dearth of speakers".
"The Florida Public Service Commission recommended last week that one-fifth of Florida's energy supply come from solar and wind power and other renewable power sources by 2020."
More than half of all states already have renewable energy requirements for utilities. In a sweeping energy law passed last year, the state Legislature asked the commission to develop recommendations by February for quotas on how much power generated in this state must be from alternative energy."Florida considering options for renewable energy".
Environmentalists, consumer advocates and utility representatives have clashed for months over the issue and are gearing up to take their fight to the state Legislature during the annual session that starts in March.
Lawmakers will be responsible for striking a balance between reducing greenhouse gas emissions for environmental and health reasons and protecting Florida's utility customers, who will foot the bill for the renewable energy plan.
"The sorry state of local political dealings"
The South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial board: "South Floridians can't sit back and let law enforcement do all the heavy lifting here. After all, it was not just the justice system that turned a blind eye to the sorry state of local political dealings over the years. Voter apathy and an overall public malaise have hung heavy in the political air and own a big chunk of the culture of complacency, too." "Criminal charges not enough to clean political house; voter participation needed, too".
"The nation's mayors argued that a bill meant to provide economic relief should aim money directly at cities, not statehouses." "Miami Mayor Manny Diaz leads call for economic aid to cities".
One wonders what these folks were doing ...
... when Batista died?: "Little Havana march planned for day Castro dies".
Sansom hubris watch
"The state attorney general has opened an inquiry into records made for a secretive meeting House Speaker Ray Sansom helped arrange of his hometown college's board of trustees." "Sansom eyed in inquiry on secret meeting".
"Thousands of Floridians are heading to Washington, D.C., by plane, train, automobile and bus to be there for the inauguration of Barack Obama." "Floridians ready for Obama inaugural". See also "Crist To Pay Own Way To Inauguration, Spokesman Says".
"Sun Sentinel report spurs some cities to review policies"
"Officials in Lauderhill, Pembroke Pines and Tamarac said they are considering stricter limits on travel, after a Sun Sentinel review found some elected officials billed taxpayers for stays at nearby hotels and for their families to attend conference functions." "Some officials embarrassed by Sun Sentinel travel expense review".
Florida goes a begging
"As Congress readies an $850 billion economic-stimulus package, state legislatures, bound by balanced-budget mandates, are slashing billions in state spending. " "States eye Obama rescue plan".
"Environmentalists are hoping for a new ban on offshore oil drilling. Immigration activists would like to see Haitians get a break from deportations. And everyone wants money." "Florida wish list for Obama includes Everglades, cities, Haitians".
"The new infrastructure"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Air service is the new infrastructure".
"Miami's inner-city is snatching up Obama memorabilia".
"Global economic crisis"
"The global economic crisis has dramatically reduced the number of sailboats at the Acura Key West Race Week, set to begin Monday off the Florida Keys." "".Meltdown means fewer sailboats for Key West races
"Corruption cases lead to county commissioners discussing reforms".