Pamela Hasterok: "It was bad, very, very bad. And the economy stinks, too."
Crist's third State of the State speech seemed so contrived even he didn't believe it. The governor delivered such a lackluster appeal for his policies, a chamber stuffed with Republican faithful could barely applaud. ..."The governor's 19-minute speech accomplished the opposite of what Floridians seek -- it provided details without vision. He gave us no sense of the possibility of a better tomorrow and no path to achieve it."
Mostly the governor looked like he'd rather be anywhere but where he was. He didn't want to face the hard facts of an economic free fall that's hurt Florida worse than most states and shows no signs of abating.
In truth, Crist seemed to all but officially announce his run for U.S Sen. Mel Martinez's soon-to-be open seat.
Crist ... lacks the desire and the fortitude to help Floridians out of this darkest hour."Uninspired Crist shows no vision".
Do us a favor, governor. Run for the U.S. Senate.
The race is on!
"Crist Daytona-bound to promote insurance program". See also "Gov. Crist makes local stop today".
"Crist says tax hikes for businesses possible".
"2009 Legislature roundup".
Unemployment up a full percent
"Florida's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 8.6 percent in January, up from 7.6 percent in December, state officials said."
There were 800,000 Floridians seeking work, and few bright spots in the job market. The state's moribund construction industry shed 100,700 jobs in the past year. Education, health care and government were the only sectors to add workers over the past year, and their growth was modest."800,000 Floridians seek work: Palm Beach County, Treasure Coast jobless rates spike in January".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "State Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, didn't know she was stirring up a hornet's nest when she filed a bill to help the state save money."
She saw a chance to save as much as $200 million by shifting court-related services to the judiciary from the clerk's office. Numbers tell the story. By transferring the courts' clerical services in 67 counties to the 20 judicial circuits, the state could save millions by eliminating bureaucracy and duplicate services. This will be a tempting target for lawmakers looking for ways to fill a $5.5 billion budget hole."Judges, clerks battle over money, turf".
Nothing, however, is simple when money and politics are involved -- and this seemingly easy call has plenty of both. The proposal has created a rift between traditional allies -- Florida's judges and clerks. They see the measure, respectively, as a potential stabilizing funding source, or a hostile power grab.
Time to cut teachers' paychecks
"School property taxes are forecast to lose $1 billion next year, casting doubt on the governor's budget proposal." "Property tax gap could cost Florida schools".
kicked off a dreary lawmaking session this week by pitching a spending plan that dodged massive cuts or tax increases, miraculously boosting classroom spending in the midst of a global recession."Upgrade schools? It's not going to happen".
But the problem is, those high-flying hopes have run smack into Florida's free-falling real-estate market.
State economists have determined real-estate values statewide are likely to fall so fast over 2009, the money local school districts can raise from property taxes is going to plummet more than $1.1billion.
Thank goodness Jebbie and the RPOFers eliminated that "insidious" intangibles tax on wealthy investors, depriving the state of millions in tax revenue. Recall, how the "Republican sponsored, $130.6 million intangible repeal (HB 209) cleared the Senate 30-9, with all opposing votes cast by Democrats."
"The insidious intangibles tax is no longer with us, which is great," Bush said. "I think it's dead. . . . The only sad thing is I can't talk about it anymore." ..."Intangible Tax Repeal Approved".
Sen. Steve Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, called it the "No Millionaire Left Behind Tax Act" and Robin Hood in reverse. He noted that retirement savings such as 401(k) accounts and money in banks already are exempt from the tax.
"Let's discuss the terrible, terrible burdensome oppressive tax on these millionaires," Geller said. "It is 1/20th of 1 percent of assets."
The tax rate has steadily declined to that level since 1999 while exemptions have increased as part of a step-by-step approach to repeal. As a result, the tax now is paid by only about 180,000 Floridians -- those with more than $370,000 in taxable property for an individual and more than $620,000 for couples.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Mass deportations of Haitians isn't the answer". The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Give Haitians a fair chance".
"Budget gap" worse than expected
"A new estimate shows property values and the taxes they generate are dropping more than previously expected, and that will just widen a potential state budget gap, the Senate's top budget-writer said Thursday." "Property value decline increases Fla. budget woes".
"Crist's package of proposed tax cuts and fee hikes will get price tags today as lawmakers further scrutinize his spending plans. State economists will estimate the cost to Florida 's coffers with Crist's proposals, which include limiting tax increases on non-homestead property and an extra tax break for first-time home buyers." "How much will governor's tax cuts cost? Legislators to find out today".
Vulnerable Dem Reps?
The Cook Political Report yesterday: "Whether or not you believe President Obama's approval ratings are inextricably tied to the post-stimulus performance of the economy, you can bet voter attitudes concerning the new president will have a strong influence on congressional election fortunes next year. ... if Obama's popularity has diminished significantly by fall 2010, the GOP could have all the ammunition it needs to put these members in their cross hairs."
Junior Democrats in McCain Districts (23)"THE 2010 BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE, Part II" (subscription required).
... FL-24 Suzanne Kosmas ...
Veteran Democrats in McCain Districts (27)
... FL-02 Allen Boyd ...
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "The wisdom of spending of taxpayer money to prevent things from happening or getting worse tends to become background noise for lawmakers sometimes. When they are looking at budget-cutting as grave as is needed this year, they are attracted to stop-gap solutions to that seem to work quickly and during their terms in office." "Legacy legislation".
Dr. Jill Biden
"The wife of Vice President Joe Biden is in Miami to discuss higher education. Dr. Jill Biden joins U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Friday for a panel discussion at Miami Dade College. They will address the role of community colleges in providing quality education and revitalizing the economy." "VP's wife discusses role of community colleges".
"Lobbyists say the industry would support removing the exemption on bottled water and imposing the state's 6-cents sales tax on every bottle of water sold. But they are against the governor's plan to impose a 6-cents severance tax on every gallon of water used for bottled water." "Water bottlers warm to sales tax".
"Florida lawmakers have spent decades carving out tax exemptions and subsidies for businesses and favorite causes. ... Lucky enough to attend the Super Bowl in Tampa? You didn't pay a sales tax on the ticket. ... But with Florida facing a budget shortfall that could reach $6 billion next year, lawmakers have started looking at the smorgasbord of exemptions and subsidies to see whether they are justified." "Groups ask to keep tax breaks".
Not so good
"The governor is heaping praise on the Cover Florida health plan that he says costs taxpayers no money, but refuses to switch state workers over." "Gov. Crist touts affordable health insurance plan". See also "Crist touts Cover Florida program" and "Crist touts health plan for uninsured".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Stanley G. Tate, founder of the Florida Prepaid College Program, may spend $500,000 fighting legislation that would let every public university in the state increase its tuition by up to 15 percent. Mr. Tate has been a wonderful advocate for higher education, but his money would be better spent on scholarships for the families he's trying to protect." "Pick a better tuition fight".
Spanish company gets contract
"The $1.2 billion project to rebuild Interstate 595 will soon be under way. Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday announced that the Florida Department of Transportation has signed an agreement with ACS Infrastructure Development Inc., a Spanish construction conglomerate.
The project will be Florida's first public-private road deal." "Florida signs $1.2 billion contract to rebuild Interstate 595".
Palm Beach ... how appropriate
"Democrats are gearing up for a PR war with their political archenemy Rush Limbaugh and have picked Palm Beach County as the place to launch the first salvo at the king of the dittoheads." "Dems to launch PR war against Limbaugh in South Florida".
"The giant snakes have established a breeding population in Everglades National Park. Now they're extending their range -- heading toward the wildlife-rich lands to the north and south of the park." "Burmese pythons expanding reach in South Florida".
... And Charlie's no where to be found
"Vice President Joe Biden is set to promote the federal stimulus bill's funding of law enforcement during a visit to the Miami Police Department." "Vice President Joe Biden in Miami: We're committed to middle class". See also "Vice President Biden To Visit Miami Today".
... The Legislature fiddles
"Lawmakers weigh regulation of exhibits featuring human remains".
"Lawmakers argue that they should have some say as to where federal spending occurs in their districts. Florida is no exception, as lawmakers would steer at least a half-billion dollars to the state."
Half this funding, about $250 million, would be aimed at Everglades restoration, according to a database compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based watchdog group."Lawmakers' pet projects in cross hairs".
"If you want to call getting the Everglades projects under way 'pork,' that happens to be the kind of bacon that I like," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. "It's for the people of Florida, and it's for our environment and it's for the ecology of planet Earth."
Thank you, Mrs. Pelosi
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Palm Coast, Deltona and Volusia County owe Nancy Pelosi a big thank-you."
In late July 2007, when early warnings of a housing crisis were beginning to sound and markets to dip (the Dow Jones average lost 500 points in a week), Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson got on television to reassure investors that any problems in the subprime lending market would be "largely contained." Pelosi wasn't so sure. Four days later, House Speaker Pelosi introduced the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2007, which included billions of dollars in aid to local governments experiencing high foreclosure rates."The bill passed the House largely on partisan lines. Among Florida's delegation, 16 of 24 lawmakers voted against it."
It took the bill a year to get a vote in the Senate. By then the crisis had exploded, with Florida one of its epicenters: Foreclosure rates ran at about 8 percent in the state, and around 10 percent in places such as Deltona and Palm Coast. The bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly, with both Florida senators in favor. It became law last July 30 -- a year late, but no less beneficial. The bill included $369 million for Florida in assistance to local governments willing to buy foreclosed properties and resell them."Federal foresight short-circuited by local fear".
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Washington's now the holder of two keys that can help Florida and much of the nation better manage their response to hurricanes and other disasters." "We think: Fugate, Klein offer relief in the wake of catastrophes".
"Florida's lieutenant governor, criticized for use of state planes, attended his latest meetings by car." "Florida's No. 2, under fire for air travel, takes to the road". See also "Facing criticism, Lt. Gov. Kottkamp opts for car to Pensacola".
A GOPer thing
"Judge assails cases doubting Obama's citizenship".