Charlie, bought and paid for
"Look for an eye-popping number when Charlie Crist next month releases the first fundraising report of his campaign for the Senate. Crist has been holding fundraisers at a furious clip lately, and is expected to have a money-raising reception virtually every day until the end of the month, in and out of Florida."
The maximum contribution to a federal campaign is $2,400, but Crist in many cases is reeling in $4,800 donations — $9,600 per couple — with half the money set aside for the primary and half for the general election."Crist rakes in cash for his Senate campaign". Related: "Money key in 2010 races".
As a sitting governor, Crist has a massive fundraising advantage. And looking at the last session, the governor earned chits with virtually every big money group except trial lawyers. Developer and Realtors? Check — the growth management bill. Business community? Check — capping workers' compensation attorney fees. Doctors? Check — the bill requiring insurance companies to make payments to out-of-network doctors.
And if Crist signs the insurance deregulation bill, maybe insurance companies will even forget about his old populist, anti-insurance corporation rhetoric and cough up some campaign checks.
"Crist is part of this story"
Randy Schultz: "The State Farm Bill, which would allow Florida's largest property insurers to charge whatever they want, finally got to Gov. Crist on Friday. Here's another story that explains why the governor who wants to be a U.S. senator should veto House Bill 1171. And Gov. Crist is part of this story." "Don't bet the (State) Farm".
"Red ink" for Florida's unemployed
"When Gov. Charlie Crist signed legislation this month extending unemployment benefits for jobless Floridians, officials called the measure a 'lifeline' for people struggling financially."
But lost in the news was a bigger problem.And to solve the problem, our geniuses in Tally run to AIF brain trust:the
Florida's unemployment fund will run dry in just two months, forcing the state to borrow billions from the federal government to keep checks flowing to recipients.
By the end of 2010, the state fund will be more than $2.7 billion in debt, according to official estimates, and by early 2012, the debt could grow to $3.2 billion.
Florida pays for jobless benefits by taxing employers on the wages of workers. For more than 25 years, it has taxed only the first $7,000 of an employee's wages — an amount sufficient when unemployment was low."Florida's jobless fund heading for red ink soon".
The new legislation, however, requires companies to be taxed on the first $8,500 in salary until 2015. At that point, the figure falls again to $7,000.
Taxing the higher amount helps reduce the size of the trust-fund shortfall, according to Tamela Perdue, general counsel of Associated Industries of Florida, the powerful business lobby that supported the bill.
But Perdue acknowledged the increase wasn't nearly big enough to erase the projected debt, and it does nothing to pay off the interest. To cover that, she said, businesses might face a surcharge.
"I'm sure they're not going to be happy about it," she said. "But what we've done, this still isn't enough."
If business interests successfully blocked an attempt to get them to pay the finance charges, lawmakers might have to raid the state's general fund — a tough sell in tight budget times. And though businesses might defeat any surcharge effort, there's little they can do to avoid paying back the loan principal.
Tristam writes ...
... we should read: "Satisfaction at GM dealership -- irony, spiders and all". Tristam's personal site.
"Tight enough to choke this state to death"
Tim Nickens: " Florida is well on its way to strangling itself, and it might just finish the job next year. If that sounds too pessimistic, look at what's headed toward the November 2010 ballot:"
• The Legislature just put on the ballot a constitutional amendment that would lower the cap on the increase in annual assessments of nonhomestead property to 5 percent."Take these three amendments and tie them to the existing tangle of development rules and tax policy. The knot around Florida would be tight enough to choke this state to death. There would be no wiggle room, no opportunities for investment in the future — and no easy way out." Much more: "The strangulation of Florida".
• Hometown Democracy announced last week the state has verified enough signatures to get its amendment on the ballot that would require local governments to seek voter approval for local land use changes. This is killing a fly with a sledgehammer ... .
• Sen. Mike Haridopolis, R-Indialantic [who is in line to be the next Senate president], will again push lawmakers next year to put on the ballot a plan to cap state and local revenues to essentially population growth plus inflation.
Jane Healy: "They may see themselves as victims, but local elected officials have no one to blame but themselves for last week's announcement that backers of Florida Hometown Democracy, a proposed constitutional amendment to manage growth, have garnered enough signatures to get it on the 2010 ballot." "Local elected officials to blame for Hometown Democracy's support".
Tax bills to jump
"When they tear open their tax notices this fall, longtime South Florida homeowners are in for a jolt. Those who bought before the housing bubble inflated (roughly from 2003 to 2007) will almost certainly see their tax bills jump, even as their home values plummet."
Here's what's going on: In simplest terms, the tax you pay on your home is determined by two factors: the assessed (taxable) value of the home and the tax (or millage) rate set by local governments.The explanation continues here: "The flip side of Save Our Homes: Longtime homeowners face big tax hike".
The assessed value is set at the time you buy your house, pegged roughly to the amount you paid. Then it is readjusted annually by the assessor. But, since 1992, Save Our Homes has capped increases in the assessed value at the inflation rate (or 3 percent, whichever is lower) even as market value soared, sometimes by double digits.
The idea was to keep people from being taxed out of their rapidly appreciating homes by ensuring that they were taxed at less than market value.
But it gave longtime owners a huge financial advantage over bubble-era buyers, who paid much more for their homes and had much higher assessments as a result.
Now, it's payback time.
"Democrat Kendrick Meek on Saturday promised a hard-charging U.S. Senate campaign that will make Charlie Crist sweat." "Meek vows aggressive Senate campaign against Crist".
"With a reputation as a conservative crusader during 20 years of voting in Congress for pro-life, gun rights and business issues, Bill McCollum is an unlikely candidate to follow the moderate political path set by the man he hopes to replace as governor, Charlie Crist."
But McCollum has dropped the code words of bygone social battles as he prepares his campaign. Instead, the early front-runner for the GOP nomination is echoing Crist's political tenor and wooing the governor's base of moderate Republicans and Democrats."Longtime conservative Bill McCollum drifts to middle".
As happened with Crist, McCollum's move to the middle has alienated some on the Republican right, who claim McCollum's conservative credentials are tarnished by votes supporting stem cell research and protections for homosexuals.
Here's the real Billy, grovelling to the "base", suggesting that Sink is a socialist; how pathetic.
In his first major speech as the Republican front-runner for governor, Attorney General Bill McCollum sought to link his likely Democratic opponent, Alex Sink, with the ''socialism'' advocated by President Barack Obama."Attorney General McCollum makes case for Florida governor post".
McCollum told about 400 people at the Miami-Dade Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day dinner that his administration would be ''open to all ideas'' but added that there were important distinctions between the two parties. The current administration is ''nationalizing'' the private sector, he said, and driving up the federal deficit.
''Their candidate for governor, their leadership team in the state, will be the leadership team not just of the individual who is running, but of the national party,'' McCollum said. ``Do you believe we want to take a chance in electing somebody who is going to be affiliated with and associated with that kind of thought process?''
"Former Republican state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart has better than a 20-to-1 money advantage over Democrat Bill Ramos as they head toward an Aug. 4 special election for the seat of retiring state Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie." "Negron has 20-to-1 money edge in special Senate race".
"In a walk"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "The amendment to the energy bill in the U.S. Senate would funnel the government's share of potentially even greater royalties to Washington. Lots of lawmakers, however, say states should share in them. If they can alter the bill to reflect that before all members of Congress vote on it, the once controversial bill — ever a threat to Florida's environment and economy — could win in a walk." "Fight the rising tide".
Poor little Jebbite
Mike Thomas struggles to make himself relevant this morning: "Pixies can't power Florida — so let's drill".
There is a difference
We daresay that no other editorial board in the state has either the will or the freedom to publish an editorial like this - The Daytona Beach News Journal editors: "Three single-payer bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress, including one with 79 sponsors. None is getting a hearing as part of the debate shaping policy. Why not? A single-payer option may not be the best way to fund universal health care. But its record abroad and its economic efficiency, compared with existing systems, makes it, at a minimum, an option that should be considered." "Single-payer silence".
Thank you, Mr. Obama
"Tampa Bay area drivers soon will see the benefits of federal stimulus dollars as two major road projects are jump-started. Stimulus money, combined with innovative financing arrangements, enabled the state to move up the Hillsborough project by three years and the Pinellas project by two years. The projects will create jobs and further economic opportunities — both primary goals of the federal stimulus money." "The miracle on U.S. 19".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Nobody questions that a college education is still a bargain in Florida, with full-time undergraduate tuition not even half the national average." "Tuition increase justified, but not at this pace".
Running gubment like a bidness
"The federal probe of former Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson led agents two months ago to the chic, South Tampa offices of Schifino Lee Advertising & Branding. This is where Johnson and the firm's top ad representatives put together the voter education campaign that's now part of an FBI investigation into whether Johnson illegally spent millions in taxpayer money during his fight for re-election. " "His ads cost taxpayers $643,016".
"A wild whooping crane came to depend on feeders when wintering in Spring Hill and will have to be sent to a zoo." "Whooping crane bound for zoo".