"Florida's Republican lawmakers wrapped up their work Sunday by agreeing to borrow and raid $1.6 billion to close the state's current-year cash shortfall." "Legislature closes $2.3 billion budget hole".
"Florida lawmakers completed a plan Sunday to plug the state's at least $2.3 billion budget hole by taking more than half of the money the state has in last-resort reserves and up to $700 million the state has fromLegislature closes $2.3 billion budget hole a settlement with the tobacco industry."
The cuts take $400 million from reserves, leaving the state with about $250 million, the lowest amount of reserves it has had in more than ten years. In addition, the approximately $1 billion tobacco endowment could be drained by more than two-thirds. ..."Fla. uses reserves, tobacco money for budget hole". See also "$2.8B budget package OK'd", "Legislators agree to borrow and slash $1.6B", "State leaders borrow $700 million from tobacco endowment for budget relief", "Florida Legislature Raids Reserves For Funds", "State Budget Deal Reached; Funds, Reserves Hit Hardest" and "Florida legislative leaders agree on cuts in spending".
Lawmakers also agreed to take $190 million from a trust fund that helps provide affordable housing.
The rest of the week:
Florida legislators continue their two-week budget-cutting special session Monday with more debate on the wisdom of $2.4 billion in cuts, and the possibility some state workers could lose their jobs."Budget cuts loom in Tallahassee". See also "No tax hikes yet, but services suffer".
Over the weekend, legislative leaders struck a deal to trim a total $1.2 billion in spending and raid about $1.6 billion from special savings and trust fund accounts.
Nursing homes, some affordable-housing programs, hospitals, prisons and drug-treatment programs should be spared the deepest of cuts under the new agreement.
Legislators gutted environmental programs but barely touched road spending. They whacked nearly $480 million from schools, but resolved two relatively small spending issues for Miami-Dade County schools after hours of secret negotiations.
By law, the budget deal must be available for public review for 72 hours before a final up-or-down vote, and the compromise can't be changed. The outcome is not in doubt: Republicans have the votes for passage Wednesday, and Democrats, most of them, likely will vote no. Gov. Charlie Crist can veto budget line items.
More Mayo on the Side: " Hey Tally, why no new sin taxes?".
"'The sun always shines in Florida'"
Steve Bousquet and Mary Ellen Klas of the St Pete Times/Miami Herald: "Midway through his term, Gov. Charlie Crist finds his sunny optimism tested almost daily as his state slips deeper into the worst recession in modern times. But the Republican governor keeps smiling."
But Crist's policy record after two years on the job is a decidedly mixed bag."Crist is viewed in some circles as"
In the past year, Crist promised to send "a sonic boom'' through the economy with the property tax cut, bring in new revenue with an Indian gambling agreement, cut property insurance rates, and create jobs through accelerated spending on public works programs. In his 2007 inaugural address, he pledged to "secure work with good pay'' and "world-class schools."
His promises have gone largely unfulfilled. The national recession converged with Florida's collapsing housing market to produce the highest unemployment rate in 15 years, the highest job losses of any state, and deep cuts to public education to balance a faltering budget.
The property tax bonanza has been a dud. The math hasn't worked as promised on property insurance. The gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida was ruled unconstitutional. The governor's pitch to create jobs by accelerating road construction amounted to more show than substance.
a superficial chief executive whose moth-to-the-flame attraction to television cameras for fluffy "media avails'' too often substitutes for substantive policy."Crist thrives amid down times in state".
"Where is he? That's what people keep asking me," said state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, a Sarasota Democrat. "We've got huge problems, and people don't see strong leadership coming forth. All we hear is, 'The sun always shines in Florida.' "
Crist makes no apologies for his rosy view of things. "Somebody has to say we're going to get out of this, that there is a future and it's going to be okay," he said. "At a time like this, it's very challenging but it also can be very uplifting."
Sansom hubris watch
The Miami Herald editorial board: "The decision by Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs to forward complaints about House Speaker Ray Sansom to a grand jury is fully warranted by the many questions surrounding this controversy. Last week, Mr. Sansom gave up the $110,000 college job that raised an outcry about his dubious ethics, but that does not put the matter to rest." "Grand jury should examine Sansom case".
Reaping what we sow
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Throughout the next weeks, the voices of furious parents, worried students and concerned teachers will ring in the ears of local school officials. It's too bad those voices won't reach Tallahassee -- which is where they really should be heard." "To the bone.
Even the Dems might be able to figure out how to make an issue of this RPOFer culture of ... .
"Besides Ballard's ties to top lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist, Ballard's brother Bob is a deputy secretary at FDEP." And his sister is in the news these days as well ...
Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty, a big name in Republican politics (and sister of lobbyist Brian Ballard), appears to be heading to prison for "a significant term of incarceration.""Mary McCarty to plead guilty in corruption case". See also "Mary McCarty resigns from Palm Beach County Commission, expects to face 5-year term". "Pasco landfill proposal spawns a battle of money, lobbyists". See also "A Ballard conflict of interest?".
And then there's this:
St. Petersburg-based Sembler is a national developer of shopping centers and residential communities. It was founded by Mel Sembler, a major state and national Republican Party fund-raiser who is especially friendly with the Bush presidential family.More here.
McCarty said Sembler is a political acquaintance whom she bumped into recently at a White House affair. She said she never talked to him or anyone at his company about the Boynton Beach projects.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board today: "Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty used her office to enrich herself. There are plenty of indications that Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin, did the same thing. So, it's appropriate for Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs to take the Sansom matter before a grand jury, which Mr. Meggs says he will do this month." "From McCarty to Sansom"
"Florida's my-way-or-the-highway former governor"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Jeb Bush wasn't cut out for senatorial duty. Florida's my-way-or-the-highway former governor didn't suffer contrary views well, held grudges, thought patience was a vice."
With Mr. Bush deciding last week not to run for the Senate seat Mel Martinez will vacate in 2010, hopefully those looking to compete for it will more naturally fill the part."We think: Florida needs a practical problem-solver to succeed Martinez".
And hopefully they'll prove more practical than partisan. Mr. Martinez sometimes managed that, ... But when he became head of the thoroughly partisan Republican National Committee, he undercut his effectiveness in the Senate and his ability to make a difference on issues critical to Floridians.
Even Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who "has been through two Clinton and two Bush inaugurations ... says 'they couldn't touch the level of enthusiasm that this inauguration has.'" "Fla politicians swamped with inauguration requests".
"Private schools pinched as aid requests rise".
Anthony P. Maingot, professor emeritus of sociology at Florida International University: "In our very South Florida preoccupation with Fidel and Raúl Castro's leadership in Cuba, we often overlook some events that point to developments that go beyond Cuba and the United States. One such development was the admission of Cuba to the Rio Group in mid-November."
Established in 1986, this Group is not to be confused with the Rio Treaty of 1947, which has been, if not completely dominated, at least predominantly influenced by the United States."Rio Group gives a `comfort zone'".
This Group is a strictly Latin American and Caribbean organization. Unfortunately, some of the analysts who are much read in South Florida either dismiss or disregard Cuba's entry into the Rio Group.
"Vietnam War-era radical and Chicago professor Bill Ayers is scheduled to speak at Florida State University, an invitation that has rankled area conservatives." "Bill Ayers to speak at FSU, conservatives protest".
"Every day, hundreds of people in Central Florida continue to slip into the foreclosure whirlpool and spiral downward toward the day they may have to leave their home." "Sell short, refinance, but try not to lose your home".
"From Miami Beach to Davie and West Palm Beach, thousands of South Florida Jews rallied Sunday to show their support for Israel as the country continues military assaults in the Gaza conflict." "Thousands of South Floridians attend pro-Israel rallies".
"Florida's has long bet big on gambling".
The South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Visit Florida is facing a big budget cut in the Florida House of Representatives. No surprise as the Legislature desperately tries to close a $2.3 billion budget gap. Still, lawmakers need to think twice before gutting the promotional arm of what is still the state's largest industry.". "Visit Florida goes under the knife.".
"The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Florida jumped nearly 20 cents a gallon in less than two weeks, to $1.83 Sunday.
" "Gas prices' climb may soon switch gears".
The Tampa Trib editors think the state would be wise to "get rid of unnecessary and time-consuming paperwork."
"Miami-based Lennar said it never siphoned cash from one joint venture to another and never treated its joint ventures like a Ponzi scheme." "Lennar issues new statement denying fraud allegations".