"House and Senate appropriations panels are set to consider their respective versions of Florida's state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The House's proposed $65 billion budget is split in two parts. Each is being heard by separate appropriations councils Tuesday." "House, Senate panels considering Fla. budget".
"Both the House and Senate will advance their budget proposals in their respective committees:"
two House councils headed by Miami Republicans Marcelo Llorente and David Rivera and the Senate Ways and Means Committee headed by Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Winter Haven. Passage of a state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is the only task that is required of legislators by the Florida."Florida lawmakers to consider budget proposals". See also "Panels to consider Florida's $65 billion budget today" and "Legislators will wrap up short week with talks on budget, visit by Sandra Day O'Connor".
The Chamber and the AIF win (yet) another round: "Senate Finance and Tax Chairman Thad Altman on Monday formally announced what has become apparent in recent weeks: The Florida Legislature won't try to broadly repeal any business sales-tax exemptions this year." "Business sales-tax exemptions to stick around". See also "Senate targets corporate tax loopholes" and "".
From The "Values" Crowd
"With billions in new Medicaid money available in federal stimulus dollars, legislative leaders have all but decided to divert about $790 million to other areas of next year's deficit-ridden budget. They also plan to cut some health care services." "A push to divert health money".
"With billions in new Medicaid money available in federal stimulus dollars, this looked like the year that the poor, sick and elderly might get more services."
But before the federal cash has started flowing to state coffers, legislative leaders have all but decided to divert about $790 million to other areas of next year's deficit-ridden budget. They also plan to cut some healthcare services."Medicaid money to be diverted".
The results: 646 nursing homes will face up to 3 percent in rate cuts. About $18 million to help foster kids could go away. And about 18,000 Floridians with developmental disabilities will remain on an ever-growing waiting list for services.
Unemployment money drying up
"Florida's $800 million workers unemployment compensation trust fund could run out of money by fall, if current trends continue, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation."
Statewide, 455,000 people are on unemployment compensation in Florida, state officials said. ..."State's unemployment compensation fund could dry up by fall".
Unemployment compensation currently pays up to $275 a week. At the end of March, recipients will start getting an additional $25 from the federal government's stimulus money, Cunningham said.
"Opponents of the state's $1.2 billion plan to build commuter rail in Central Florida fear that language buried in the Senate's budget proposal could move the deal forward even if legislation guiding the project stalls." "Budget includes commuter rail".
"The state's top economists concluded Monday that a House plan to allow the Seminole Tribe the exclusive right to operate slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties would yield about $257 million in the first year -- much more than the $100 million previously projected under the proposal."
A Senate plan to give the tribe full casino games -- including blackjack, slot machines, roulette, and craps -- would yield no more than about $400 million a year in annual revenue sharing, since the tribe would likely face increased competition from expanded gambling across the state."Gambling would financially help Florida, economists say". See also "Economists raise estimates on gambling revenue".
Those were the predictions of the state's Revenue Estimating Conference to determine how much money the two very different gambling bills will produce. Both bills have won approval from initial committees and are moving targets in both chambers.
Bill Cotterell: "As Florida legislators deal with an unprecedented multibillion-dollar budget gap, a rift over funding of health and welfare issues has developed in the usually monolithic House Republican leadership."
Rep. Juan Zapata, R-Miami, met privately with Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, Monday to tell him why he could not present the Human Services Appropriations Committee portion of the budget today, when the full House budget panel considers amendments. Zapata's committee had disapproved a provision for privatization of Northeast Florida State Hospital in Macclenny last week, but Cretul reinserted it. "House leadership showing the strain".
Zapata also sought to shift $200,000 from an AIDS program at Miami's huge Jackson Memorial Hospital to an anti-cancer program in Miami. Cretul disapproved, calling the move a member project — the kind of budget earmark leadership has sworn off, at least for this year.
Tobacco "sleight of hand"
"Senators in both parties are accusing leaders in their chamber of performing sleight of hand with revenue from a proposed increase in the tobacco tax instead of using the money to shore up spending on health care." "Senators decry tobacco tax switch".
Pants on fire!
"Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp says he flew his family on a state plane for a weekend trip to historic St. Augustine in April 2007 so he could attend a federal Small Business Administration event. ... but records obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel show he had nothing scheduled that weekend. And SBA officials said they had no events during Kottkamp's visit." "Records don't back Lt. Gov. Kottkamp on flight". Related: "The plane truth: Trips home costly for Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp" and "Lt. Gov. Kottkamp's calendar was clear on 60 weekdays, record reveal".
"Lawmakers aren't thinking"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board:
With land prices crashing, buyers scarce and sellers often begging, it's an ideal time to rev up Florida Forever and take advantage of uniquely favorable circumstances to add to the program's inventory much less expensively, relative to recent years. Instead, the Legislature wants to cut off funding. Lawmakers aren't thinking."Fortuitous time to invest in Florida Forever".
"Charlie Crist's Senate run hint: 'See you in Washington.'".
Meek on the move
"U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek brought his U.S. Senate campaign to the capital Monday and promised a "long-term relationship" with grass-roots supporters he meets in a marathon effort to become the first statewide candidate to get on the ballot by persuading voters to sign petitions. " "Meek begins petition drive in run for Florida Senate seat".
"Petroleum products threaten drinking-water supplies"
"Engineers and environmentalists warned Monday about proposed budget cuts to a $151.7 million program that pays for some 5,000 active cleanup projects where plumes of gasoline and other petroleum products threaten drinking-water supplies." "Proposed cuts to petroleum cleanup raise civic concerns".
"Idiotic? You bet"
The Tampa Trib editors: "Here's what passes for fiscal stewardship in the Legislature: Waste a $100 million investment, eliminate 125 biotech jobs and kill research that attracts private companies, federal grants and helps society deal with a crippling and costly disease. Idiotic? You bet." "State wrong to abandon Alzheimer's research".
"A Florida Senate panel passed an insurance bill minus a provision that would have allowed home insurers to pass through automatic rate increases. However, the bill would let the state-run insurer raise its rates." "Florida Senate panel votes for Citizens Property Insurance rate hike".
"The new deal to buy land to help restore the Everglades may not stem controversy, but it should spur state leaders to finally get on with completing one of Florida's more important public works projects." "Now that there's a new deal with U.S. Sugar, can we get on with the Everglades restoration?".
"Like a bully ..."
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The Legislature is saying it will hold schools harmless by giving them the same per-student allocation next year that they had this year."
Given the cuts schools suffered this year, that's like a bully who just beat up a victim saying he isn't about to hit the kid again."Schools not held harmless".
The Astronauts probably have defined benefit pension plans
Mike Thomas: "NASA delivers a little bit for a whole lot of money".
"Rep. Janet Adkins filed a host of amendments to block or soften the effect of the GEO Group-backed effort to privatize the Northeast Florida State Hospital in her district. But her most effective advocacy might have been the sniffles and near tears she shed over the issue." "Rep. Adkins weeps in privatization war".
"Jorge Labarga becomes second Cuban-American justice on Florida Supreme Court".
"In December, Jason Brodeur, 33, became chairman of the Seminole County Republican Executive Committee, taking over for Jim Stelling, a longtimer in Seminole politics who held the seat for 12 years. Sentinel reporter Rachael Jackson sat down with Brodeur in Sanford." "New Seminole County GOP leader wants to strengthen party ties".