As we've been saying for weeks, Charlie is outa here. He'll use the respite offered by Obama's stimulus package to skate through the session and avoid any heavy lifting - indeed, he's actually proposing to cut taxes in the midst of the state's fiscal crisis. The next Governor can do the work. Meantime, the timing is perfect for Charlie to make the Senate leap.
Jeremy Wallace: "Crist says he will not announce until at least May whether he will run for the U.S. Senate in 2010. But his actions tell a different story, convincing political insiders that the popular Republican governor is all but set to aim for Washington." "Will Gov. Crist run for Senate? Signs point to yes".
Charlie at the trough
"Gov. Charlie Crist drew jibes from disgruntled Republicans for stumping with President Barack Obama in Fort Myers last week for his economic stimulus plan."
The governor, who's flirting with a U.S. Senate bid in 2010 that could cost upward of $30 million, better hope the critics don't stay away from his fundraisers."Crist also prospecting".
Crist and state Republican Chairman Jim Greer of Oviedo were the hosts for a $5,000-per-person VIP fundraiser last week at Disney Boardwalk Inn Resort. And they'll both be back in Washington on Friday, raising cash at the offices of BGR Group, a lobbying firm whose clientele includes the University of Florida and Orlando Regional Healthcare.
Crist and the state party also plan a March fundraiser in Orlando, a Charlie Crist Fishing Tournament in Key West in May and an "American Celebration in Washington, D.C." in July.
Randy Schultz nails it: "Gov. Crist calls the so-called 'economic stimulus' bill a 'bridge of help for Florida.'"
Unfortunately, it may turn out to be a "bridge of help" for the governor and all the legislative leaders who don't want to do the hard work of reforming the state's tax and budget system."What Florida gets probably won't be enough to avoid all budget cuts but may be enough to avoid any tax or budget makeover."
Next year is an election year, so nothing big will be on the agenda. Gov. Crist will be running for reelection or the Senate, so he'll just be hoping that things look a little sunnier.Read the whole column here: "'Stimulus' could stall Florida".
If this recession has revealed serious flaws in the national economy, however, it also has revealed the serious flaws in how Florida raises and spends money. ...
Sometimes, only a crisis can force reform on uncreative, rigid politicians. After news reports, the Legislature seems persuaded that Florida's lieutenant governor doesn't need to spend $400,000 on air travel and have a security detail. Way to go. Gov. Crist and self-styled small-government legislators will accept the "economic stimulus" money from the big government in Washington. But if they don't also fix what's wrong in Florida over and above the lieutenant governor's travel, the money will be a bridge to nowhere.
"Okay, this is getting confusing."
Charlie Crist backs the $789 billion stimulus package, even if he doesn't care to talk about the details. But Crist's anointed state GOP chairman, Jim Greer, after publicly chastising Republican critics of that package, issued a clarification last week to stress that he wasn't sold on the proposal yet, but loved the idea of bipartisan cooperation demonstrated by Crist."Greer straddles on stimulus".
Media company employees give Charlie the luv ...
Beth Reinhard: "Crist is rarely on the wrong side of a poll, even if it conflicts with Republican orthodoxy. He kept quiet while fellow Republicans tried to stop the husband of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo from ending her life. He extended early voting hours in the 2008 election, even though most people in line didn't favor his party's nominee. He has consistently backed a national insurance fund that could help Florida residents in the event of a devastating hurricane." "Crist reads polls well on stimulus plan".
... while Charlie gives Floridians more tax cut bimbocracy
"Crist to unveil tax cut proposals". See also "Florida's governor readies four proposals for property tax relief".
Enough with the failed Bushco programs
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Florida's Medicaid reform experiment has reduced health-care services for the poor, elderly and disabled and failed to save the state money. So, why do state officials want to expand the program to 20 more counties?"
In 2005, then-Gov. Jeb Bush promised that his plan to overhaul the state/federal program would provide more choices, better service and cost savings. It has done just the opposite."Reform Medicaid reform".
Who lobbies for "the poor, the elderly and the very ill"?
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "The state's budget picture looks grimmer at every turn. And the most likely to suffer -- Florida's children, the poor, the elderly and the very ill -- are also the most defenseless. It's an untenable situation, and one lawmakers have the power to correct." "Lawmakers target online sales".
Another reason to avoid Wal-Mart
"Man bitten by snake at Wal-Mart suing for negligence".
Oh yeah, about that "no-new-taxes pledge" ...
"Even conservative lawmakers [except our oblivious Charlie (see above)] are talking these days about making tax changes that could expand Florida's shrinking coffers."
Raising the cigarette tax. Ending sales tax breaks. Closing a loophole in the real estate transfer tax. Enforcing sales tax collection on Internet purchases. Faced with a revenue shortfall that could hit a staggering $5.7 billion by July 2010, GOP leaders in the Legislature have said that all options are on the table."Will No-Tax Vow Haunt Lawmakers?".
But wait - more than two dozen sitting lawmakers have signed a no-new-taxes pledge that began circulating in 1986. Can they balance that commitment now against the state's plummeting revenue?
"Topping that list is GOP Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow"
"An attempt to limit lobbyist-funded trips has prompted mixed results among the Tampa Bay area's five U.S House members and Florida's two U.S. senators."
None of the area's federal lawmakers have taken more than one trip under the new rules that came out of the scandals involving former D.C. superlobbyist Jack Abramoff."Lobbying Rules Slow, But Don't Stop, Trips".
Some have not taken any trips[*].
At the same time, some have not been so shy about approving such travel by their staff.
Topping that list is GOP Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow.
- - - - - - - - - -
*"Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa has not approved any trips for herself or her staffers since she took office in January 2007, records show."
"Two Florida banks [Coral Gables-based BankUnited and Fort Lauderdale-based BankAtlantic] are joining some of the country's largest lenders in temporarily halting foreclosures as the federal government tackles the housing crisis."
Florida is one of four states - along with California, Nevada and Arizona - that accounted for nearly half the nation's 2008 foreclosures, according to RealtyTrac Inc., while comprising just a quarter of U.S. mortgages overall."2 Florida banks temporarily halting foreclosures".
Pulling themselves up by their bootstraps; "Pasco Sheriff Bob White hires Timothy Couet, Jeremiah Hawkes, Richard Corcoran".
Go slow on the glow
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "" "Progress Energy Florida's announcement last week that it wants to roll back surcharges was welcome relief for electric customers still whipsawed from January's 24 percent rate increase. The impact of the 11 percent reduction is likely temporary, as the company said it would seek a base rate increase for 2010. But the delay gives the Florida Legislature a short reprieve to recraft a controversial 2006 law that allowed utility companies to start charging their customers for new nuclear plants before the plants are built and generating power." "Rethink nuclear plant law".
Running government like a business
"In just under two years, Kottkamp has had 60 full weekdays with an entirely clear calendar, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Saturday, a time period amounting to 12 work weeks. ... On more than 40 days, his schedule said only "work and call time," which Kottkamp's staff said is used to read and review documents and make phone calls." "Newspaper finds Kottkamp schedule light many days".
"FPL raised rates even though fuel costs fell".
The best they can do
Does South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial page editor Antonio Fins foists a brilliant TaxWatch idea on his innocent readers:
At last week's town hall meeting in Fort Myers, President Obama stated his willingness to hear other economic-boosting ideas and strategies from people just like us. Great to hear that, Mr. President — here is one."Antonio Fins: Florida stimulus?: Security must protect, but still welcome".
It's a way to stimulate South Florida's economy without having to throw $1 trillion at us — and that could offer as much of a boost, if not more, than the $6.6 billion earmarked for the Sunshine State in the Senate's stimulus bill. In fact, this idea could actually save taxpayer dollars if it makes government work better for all of us.
"You don't need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars," said Dominic Calabro, the CEO and president of Florida TaxWatch. "It's a matter of thinking and acting intelligently. It's a matter of streamlining a system that once worked very well."
How 'bout retention bonuses?
"Amid nurse shortage, hospitals focus on retention".
Stop the presses!
"Jeb Bush catches some blame for Hillsborough election supervisor problems".
Must be the AFM's fault
"The Concert Association of Florida, which was responsible for bringing classical and world music to South Florida, has filed for bankruptcy. The organization's board said it could not recover from a huge drop in ticket sales and donations. The association has set aside $100,000 to refund tickets for canceled shows, but most scheduled through April will take place as planned." "Bankruptcy declared by Concert Association of Fla.".
Obama to the rescue
"Florida waits on millions in foreclosure aid". See also "".
The trickle down crowd wants its dough
Perhaps the chickens are coming home to roost for the folks who believe that tax cuts will produce road building dollars.
You see, our poor friends in bright red Jacksonville and environs are in a dither about whether they will get federal bucks:
In Northeast Florida alone, counties have identified more than $1.3 billion in projects that could begin in the next six months - if only the money was in place.The insightful voters in Northeast Florida can thank their GOPer brothers and sisters for stripping meaningful infrastructure dollars from the stimulus package.
When President Obama said he wanted to rebuild the economy by rebuilding infrastructure, public officials nationwide began putting together wish lists that went heavy on roads, bridges and buildings. Northeast Florida was no different.
But infrastructure money is something critics of the package say was mostly left out.
At any rate,
Much of the $1.3 billion regional request comes from Jacksonville, where Mayor John Peyton has identified more than $700 million in projects."How much will we really get in the stimulus package?". Perhaps Peyton and his ilk should push for yet another politically popular tax cut - that ought to produce the necessary $700 million Jax needs.
Peyton had traveled to Washington several times to drum up support for the city. In January, city lobbyist Patton Boggs arranged a brief meeting with Obama for the mayor.
But late last week, as the legislation came closer to a final plan, Peyton wasn't optimistic.
"In reality," he said, "we don't expect to see any of it."
You go Bill ...
... just like a real AG should: "The Florida Attorney General's Office is suing an Orlando company for allegedly preying on homeowners in danger of foreclosure." "Fla. AG accuses home loan rescue company of fraud".
"Fifty years after the first lawsuit was filed to desegregate Florida's public schools, cases against more than a dozen school districts -- including Orange County's -- are still in court. Black and white students attending classes side by side might seem matter-of-fact today. But the last word has not been said on 14 of the 34 Florida school districts that were sued to force the integration they fought to avoid." "50 years later, Florida school districts still struggling with desegregation lawsuits".
"Jeb says times to turn Washington 'upside down'".
"Jeb!" disses the People's Governor
Jebbie "Bush, in a Wall Street Journal interview published Saturday, mentioned Republican governors he admires, including Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Hmmmm. Surely it was just an oversight that he didn't mention Florida's current governor." "Sorry, Charlie".
"Three months after Election Day, they're at it again"
"Winning a part-time job in the Florida Legislature takes lots of money, and collecting those checks has never been more of an around-the-clock activity."
In the 2008 election cycle, more than 400 legislative candidates raised more than $41 million to pay for commercials, direct-mail, political consultants and other costs of running targeted campaigns."Capitol View: Lawmakers' priority is 'raise funds, and be quick about it'".
Three months after Election Day, they're at it again.
"The Ponzi state"
The Tampa Trib editors: "The deserted houses and heartbroken homeowners in Florida's newest suburbs are the subject of a devastating article in the current New Yorker magazine. ... Yet there is no question Florida's addiction to fast growth contributed to the state's sudden reversal of fortunes. The New Yorker calls us the Ponzi state, and the insult is correct in that the housing boom fed on itself and could not be sustained." "Recession Brings Clouds, Not An Economic Sunset".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Lawmakers should demand more from Florida's commercial space effort". Background: "Space Florida launches lots of criticism".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "If they can't have more money - or even as much money - Florida school districts should have more flexibility to spend whatever money they will get for the 2009-10 school year." "Loosen Tallahassee's rules on public school spending".
Jac Wilder VerSteeg: "Largely as a legacy of the Jeb Bush era, Florida has policies and programs that encourage students to do exactly what the 85 Palm Beach County students are doing: Get a high school diploma without having to pass the FCAT." "Hypocrisy from state on FCAT".
"The parents of a 7-year-old in Largo are outraged their child was taken out of school and hospitalized under a state mental health law. The boy spent a night at Morton Plant Hospital before being seen by a child psychologist. Under Florida's Baker act, authorities can hospitalize someone involuntarily if they're a serious threat to themselves or others." "Fla. parents upset child detained for mental tests".