"As Democrats lavish praise on Florida's Republican governor for enthusiastically supporting their economic stimulus package,"
Republicans are questioning whether Crist damaged his future.But, in what any thinking person would take as evidence he's on the right track,
''I don't think he's helped any national Republican ambitions he may have by stepping up to the plate and batting for the other team. . . . There's a difference between working in a bipartisan way for the common good and switching sides and putting on the other team's jersey,'' said veteran Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. ``At the one moment when we've finally found our voice and remember who we are as Republicans, Charlie Crist forgets. It's stunning.''
one of his closest political allies, Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, who said on the Senate floor that Crist doesn't get it."GOP seethes over Charlie Crist's stimulus-plan support". See also "Gov. Charlie Crist takes heat from Republicans for supporting stimulus package" and "Crist-Obama man-hug irks GOPers".
Laff riot: "Martinez: Crist doesn't understand stimulus".
"Some Democratic lawmakers hope that Florida's share of the federal stimulus package will give them a powerful advantage during state budget negotiations this spring. That's because using a chunk of those dollars to patch the state's shrinking $65 billion budget may require a supermajority vote, owing to state constitutional restrictions on how lawmakers can spend temporary sources of revenue." "Shortfall May Boost Democrats".
What's in it?
"Sold as a bailout for cash-starved states, the $789 billion economic-recovery package Congress has finalized could help soothe some of Florida's bruises from two years of budget cuts. But as details began to emerge Thursday, it was clear the plan won't be a cure-all."
State officials said the agreement could steer close to $10 billion to Florida for road-building, health care, classrooms, food stamps, welfare and other aid to the poor."Crist's budget writers are going to have to deal with some troublesome details."
However, much of it comes with requirements that the cash-strapped state -- facing a $5 billion-plus deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1 -- must maintain or increase its own spending to qualify for the stimulus money.
"Most of the things in there require us to spend more money in order to get more money," said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research. "So there are going to be hard decisions to make."
For example, the bill provides $87 billion nationally for Medicaid, the federal-state program that pays for medical care for the sick, elderly and poor. Medicaid enrollment in Florida is up by more than 10 percent."A $10 billion drop in Florida's bucket?". See also "Stimulus bill's details frustrate lawmakers", "How the billions may flow to Florida" and "State to get less stimulus than hoped, Crist says".
But to qualify for the money, states are required to maintain the same level of Medicaid coverage that they provided in July.
Florida has taken several steps to cut its $16 billion in Medicaid costs by reducing coverage. And lawmakers had hoped to save nearly $500 million by sharply restricting the "medically needy" program -- which now covers thousands of adults who don't meet Medicaid income requirements but are seriously ill -- to 1,500 women and children as of July 1.
That cost-cutting measure may now have to be reversed, officials said.
The brain trust at the
Florida Chamber of Commerce is watching the details [of the stimulus plan] closely, which are still being debated in the conference committee melding the Senate and House versions."FPL Group could be among the big winners in the stimulus package, Bloomberg News reported,"
''The package is pretty much done, so we're moving into phase two,'' said Kirsten Borman, spokeswoman for the state business group.
The Chamber has created the Economic Stimulus Coalition, with 200 members statewide to watch and lobby for the best ways to spend the package's money in the state. ``We want a unified voice to speak to the state agencies and others.''
The chamber's main plea is for spending on infrastructure, followed by education and Medicaid. All three of those areas are under severe budget pressure in the state.
with the biggest companies gaining the most from at least $61 billion being dedicated to promoting cleaner energy."Economic stimulus plan called 'unfocused'". See also "Crist, Castor Praise Stimulus Plan's Potential For Florida" and "Florida stimulus share 'very encouraging,' Gov. Crist says".
''Dollar-wise, the big guys will get the bulk of it,'' said Hugh Wynne, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein, in New York. ``For some of the smaller guys, the difference might be between an early and unhappy demise and staying in business.''
Among the projects: 3,000 miles of new power lines to urban centers from areas of wind and solar projects and smart meters to limit wasted electricity.
FPL, the largest U.S. producer of wind power, also would gain from the stimulus package's renewable-energy provisions, Wynne said.
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "While Florida and other states facing budget shortfalls will not get as much money as they had hoped, there is an additional $87 billion for Medicaid. That will free state tax dollars to help fill holes in education and elsewhere." "Not perfect, but urgently needed".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., released a calculation Thursday that the stimulus would create or save 206,000 jobs in Florida over the next two years. " "An unstimulating stimulus".
As the empty suit turns ...
"A growing number of Floridians have no health insurance and don't qualify for Medicaid -- the federal and state program for the poor. Although the last official count put the state's uninsured at 3.8 million, experts say it's probably much higher, given the rising unemployment rate." "3.8 million . . . in Florida lack health policies - - and affordable options".
"The export figures, while impressive, do not necessarily reflect items manufactured in the state. South Florida is a major transshipment point for goods manufactured elsewhere." "Exports up sharply at South Florida ports".
Drill!, baby, drill!
"Crews Cleaning Tampa Bay After Fuel Spill".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "[A]fter an investigation of Village Academy in Delray Beach, "
the state is accusing teachers of promoting "Stepford Writing" - using a formula so that students pass but don't learn."Misplaced FCAT blame".
It's a bad way to teach, but the cause is not rigid writing rules. The cause is rigid allegiance to the idea of basing public education on a high-stakes test given once a year. The focus is on a score, not on education. Teachers need no study to understand what to emphasize.
"As Florida's unemployment numbers rise, the decades-old fight between the state's Seminole Tribe and its gambling competitors has come to this: who can promise the most jobs. The owners of horse tracks, dog tracks and jai alai frontons promised state lawmakers Thursday that if they had been given the same deal as the tribe's Hard Rock casinos, they could produce 23,000 construction jobs and 32,000 direct jobs in Miami-Dade and Broward racinos." "Jobs become focus of Seminole-tracks' casino battle". See also "Racetrack owners say they could create jobs if given same tax break as Seminole Hard Rock casinos" and "Parimutuels Warn Florida About Tribe Compact".
As the "values" crowd screams for lower taxes ...
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "With the federal stimulus dollars that may, might, should or could come our way, this region may see several direct benefits — one of the most enduring of which would be the $540,000 expansion of the neonatal intensive care unit at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital." "Baby steps".
Seminole bed tax?
"Fort Lauderdale tourism officials never asked the Seminole Tribe of Florida to charge a bed "tax" at its Hard Rock resort as one of the tribe's gaming executives insisted yesterday." "Lauderdale officials deny asking Seminoles to charge bed tax".
OMG, a tax increase!!!
"A first-term Democrat in the House teamed up with a senior Senate Republican Thursday hoping to add more than $2 billion to Florida's depleted treasury by collecting sales tax on Internet transactions."
Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, and Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, were joined at a news conference by representatives of 18 organizations supporting their bills to "streamline" sales tax collections. Like the bill's sponsors, some of the organizations — including the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO — usually don't agree on much in the Legislature."Bill would enforce Internet sales tax collection". See also "Lawmakers target online sales".
Sleeping in the library
"Number of South Florida homeless students on the rise".
Florida's Red Baron
"Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who has come under fire for his frequent use of state aircraft, has paid the state nearly $7,000 for his wife and son's travel, a spokeswoman for the Department of Management Services said Thursday" "Kottkamp submits a check for family flights". See also "Lt. Gov. reimburses state for flights after probe".
The South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Who is this guy flying around on your dime?" ("After the Sun Sentinel inquired about the flights, the governor's office said Kottkamp would reimburse the state for flights his wife and young son took, which he did this week. He should repay the government all flights that were for personal rather than business reasons.")
"Stuck in Dark Ages"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Sansom's legislative e-mail account had been regularly purged of e-mails older than a month, making an examination of his relationship with the college more difficult than it should have been. (Sansom quit the job less than two months after taking it.) The purged e-mail account wasn't Sansom's doing, in particular. It's what's done automatically for all legislators, supposedly because electronic storage space is limited." "Legislators' open-record standard stuck in Dark Ages".
While McCollum sleeps ...
"FBI Investigating Former Election Chief Johnson's Spending". See also "FBI seizes Johnson's records".
Ileana has nuthin' better to do?
"A Florida Congresswoman is calling out Forbes magazine for including Miami in its list of Top 10 Most Miserable Cities in the country." "Magazine puts Miami among 'Most Miserable Cities'".
Especially in red states
"Neanderthal genome may cast light on modern man".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board writes that "Legislators opposing SunRail because a few contractors recently questioned its costs should have to answer this question:"
Would they completely abandon plans to do energy upgrades to their homes -- installing more-efficient ductwork, air conditioning, insulation, lighting and plumbing fixtures -- if contractors told them their low-flow shower heads would cost them more than they hoped to pay?"Panic, misguided attacks shouldn't stop SunRail".
If they answer honestly, there's one answer. Of course not. They'd negotiate the price of the shower heads, or seek out another contractor, or do without the shower heads.
And so it is with SunRail. A portion of the project's $1.2 billion cost -- $158 million -- met resistance from some contractors, who chose not to bid on it because they said the state's price for the project wouldn't adequately cover their costs. Now legislators wary of SunRail are using the incident to try and kill it. SunRail's not what officials promised, they're charging. The project will exceed costs, they say.
While Charlie primps ...
"Fla. homeless woman gets help after Obama question".
What if you scheduled a nitwit ...
... and nobody came?
"Discovering that $250-a-plate tickets are a tough sell during a recession, the Palm Beach County Republican Party has scrubbed plans to have conservative columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin speak at the party’s Feb. 21 Lincoln Day fund-raising dinner. Malkin’s fee would have been $18,000, said county GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein. " "Thrifty GOP axes $18k Malkin gig".
What's God ...
... got to do with it? "Cretul says ascent to House Speaker part of 'God's plans'".
"With one passing barb at Gov. Charlie Crist, friends and top aides to Gov. Lawton Chiles paid a warm tribute to his widow Thursday night for her work on behalf of children." "State's former first lady named 2009 'Distinguished Floridian'".
Perhaps this will also "have Republicans seething"
"Crist, NAACP discuss Fla. diversity".
"Everglades Foundation bash brings Estefan to Palm Beach, big money to the cause tonight".
"Dania Beach's 'colored beach' memorialized".
Big of 'em
"Central Florida's largest electric utility, under fire for a 25 percent rate increase imposed earlier this year, announced Thursday that it would reduce customers' bills by 11 percent starting in April, thanks to lower fuel costs and a decision to defer some of the charges related to a planned nuclear-power plant in Levy County." "Progress plans to cut now, hike later".
"Police, politicians, activists and leaders of nonprofit groups gathered in Sunrise to kick off an effort to rid South Florida of gangs." "South Florida leaders plan strategy to combat gangs".