"State lawmakers arrive at the Capitol today for a two-week special session to close a $2.3 billion gap in the state budget."
Among the options they plan to use: raiding state reserves, boosting fees for court-related services and cutting spending by roughly $1 billion."Lawmakers Tackle Budget".
That's about double the amount that Gov. Charlie Crist had proposed trimming. The cuts now expected may trigger layoffs and will likely cut into health, public safety and education.
"Less money for schools, more debt for the state and dwindling reserve accounts are among the grim realities Florida legislators will battle over when they return to the capital today to whack an additional $2.3 billion from a budget that's bleeding red." "Latest budget cuts will spare few". See also "Budget session could hurt some", "More pain ahead as Florida tries to balance the budget", "Lawmakers gear up to trim down budget", "Money-saving options for the Legislature" and "Florida's troubles: By the numbers".
Crist proposes to cut ed funding by $100 million
"It's a part of the outline Crist put out to make up a $2.3 billion gap in state revenues."
Crist proposes reducing nearly $100 million from budgeted education spending, half from state universities and half from K-12, workforce training and community colleges. Workforce education programs would take an $8.4 million cut, according to the governor's plan."Crist proposes cutting $50M from Florida's universities".
He said it: "Crist pledges 'smart' cuts to budget".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "A report recommending how to make Florida's power companies more 'green' is too kind to nuclear power." "Nuclear power has benefits; being truly 'clean' isn't one".
We don' need no stinkin' single payor commie stuff ....
"The pair have admitted in court that their company, The Pharmed Group, used former employees at Kendall Regional Medical Center to place millions of dollars in fake medical supply orders. The brothers have asked that their prison terms be limited to four years or less, because they took a plea deal and because of their charitable and civic contributions." "Brothers in Miami fraud case to be sentenced".
No way to run a state
"Eight Florida school districts -- including Miami-Dade -- are being monitored by the state Department of Education because their reserves are dangerously low. All the districts have less than 2.5 percent of their operating budgets set aside in rainy-day accounts. And one of the counties, the tiny Taylor school district in northwest Florida, is actually working in the red, despite laying off employees and enacting other cost-saving measures. " "Miami-Dade schools' finances draw state scrutiny".
Sansom hubris watch
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board calls the kettle black, beginning an editorial today with this: "Who doesn't like a lapdog?"
They then join the Sansom fray (better late than never): "It was bad enough that someone in Mr. Sansom's position got such a job, an increasingly common perk for legislators whose votes provide the lifeblood to Florida's public colleges and universities. Conveniently for the speaker, his new employer didn't open the job to other candidates."
Then, the editors stick their heads thoroughly into the sand, writing that they find the Sansom "revelations echoing the kind of political sleaze you'd expect from Illinois." "We think: Legislative leaders can't ignore the new speaker's troubles".
Diaz days dwindling
"It's a new year, with a new president, but there's probably not going to be a new title for Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. Diaz, who has been mentioned for weeks as a possible appointment in the incoming Barack Obama administration, now seems unlikely to head to Washington. ... Diaz, meanwhile, has stayed relatively mum on the topic lately, saying last week that he is focused on his current job as mayor. He still has just under a year left in his second term but will not be able to seek reelection because of term limits." "Miami Mayor Manny Diaz a long short for Obama job".
"Former President George H.W. Bush said on Sunday he'd like to see his second son, Jeb, become President of the United States some day." "Jeb Bush should be president one day, dad tells FoxNews".
This, on the other hand, is not a joke
Florida Sen. Ronda Storms represents district 10, which includes eastern Hillsborough and parts of Pasco and Polk counties defends her proposal "for abandoning the Dewey Decimal System (DDS)". "Library Savings Small Part Of Sen. Storms' Agenda".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editors argue that Legislators ought to consider rolling back Jebbie's "foolish giveaways" and plug sales tax loopholes:
When times were flush, former Gov. Jeb Bush insisted on a series of taxpayer-funded boons to wealthy investors and companies in the form of a reduction to the state's intangibles tax. It's time to take back that lavish present. At one point, the intangibles tax cut siphoned more than $1 billion from the annual budget; a repeal could still contribute several hundred million dollars to the state's bottom line. ..."Hard times in Florida".
The state sales tax is riddled with exemptions, many of which never made much sense -- what's the point of sparing owners of luxury sports-arena skyboxes sales tax, when those buying ordinary seats are required to pay?
"The Legislature's special session convenes today with critical budget shortfalls to resolve — even as it provides the first on-the-job training and dry run for freshmen members who are just barely settling into their offices." "Our Opinion: Citizens welcome as legislators start to work".
Scott Maxwell: "Sen. Jeb as GOP's Bush 4.0? Wake up and smell reality".
Now ... there's a thought
"The excitement is building for football fans in Florida. On Thursday, the college championship is on the line in the BCS title game as Oklahoma takes on the Gainesville branch of Northwest Florida State College."
What? You thought Oklahoma will be playing the University of Florida Gators? That's technically true. But today the Legislature convenes a special session to deal with a $2.3 billion budget gap. So there is time - as well as an incentive - to rechristen Florida's flagship research university as a satellite campus of Northwest Florida State College, which is in Niceville."House speaker unfair to UF".
From the "free to choose" crew
The Tampa Trib editors think they can purchase ethics: "The present salary of $31,932 needs to be substantially increased. Even if it were $100,000, which we think is more than necessary, the raise would bump the costs of base pay from about $5.1 million to $16 million a year for the 160 lawmakers. Considering how many millions are directed to questionable projects and special interests, even generous pay would be a good public investment if it reduced ill-advised spending."
The editors write that, under the current model,
the main loyalty of many lawmakers appears to be to some other employer."Legislature Needs To Know Who's Its Boss".
Even as the Legislature convenes in special session Monday to realign spending with falling revenues, the spotlight has been on the controversy over House Speaker Ray Sansom, who is a good example of what's going wrong. Sansom secured millions of extra dollars for Northwest Florida State College, then took an unadvertised job at the same college that pays him $110,000 a year. Now he's using his influence in Tallahassee to try to get millions more for the school.
Under state law, the situation could be just fine. Only if he had a clear understanding that the job was a direct payoff for certain votes in the Legislature would he be in ethical hot water.
In Florida, being employed by someone whose business or agency is affected by laws you might pass is not prohibited. It's not even considered an official conflict of interest. The low pay actually encourages outside employment.
Good luck with that
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board writes that "During the special session, leaders should ask a neutral body such as the state Revenue Estimating Conference to prepare figures on a variety of budgetary decisions -- including ways to draw more revenue into state coffers -- and then agree to hold open budget hearings around the state. Given the facts, Floridians should have a chance to offer their input on budget decisions, including specific program cuts or innovative ways to save money." "Give public a direct voice in budget cuts".
Here's "hoping the DOE chooses education over politics"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "When the 2008 Florida Legislature failed to pass a compromise bill requiring special training for teachers of students learning English, the job of determining the appropriate standard was shifted to the Department of Education. The DOE might seem just the right place to finally decide the matter, but the issue is highly contentious and easily swings between the realms of politics and education. We're hoping the DOE chooses education over politics." "DOE in position to decide ESOL rule".
Middle East ... West
"The conflict in the Middle East made its way to South Florida over the weekend, as competing protests became heated and a dozen people were arrested for disorderly conduct." "Miami hosts dueling protests over Mideast conflict".
"Outgoing Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Arthur Anderson seemed upbeat last week as he packed up his office to make way for Susan Bucher, who takes over as elections chief on Tuesday." "Outgoing voting chief Anderson seems healthier, happier".
"A case in point"
The Tampa Trib editors: "one thing state and local governments have gotten spectacularly right is environmental land acquisition. The Southwest Florida Water Management District's conservation program is a case in point." "Conservation Effort Sweetens Florida Living".