RPOF "in a fix"
Aaron Deslatte: "For decades, Floridians have essentially bought government on the cheap, satisfying a swelling appetite for expanded services with taxes paid in large measure by visitors and newcomers."
But the idea that the Sunshine State can keep buying happiness on the backs of an exploding population has all but vanished in Tallahassee. ..."The GOP-led Legislature and Governor's Office say the way to deal with the problem long term is to capitalize on Florida's destination status for retirees, while making it more attractive for companies and white-collar wage-earners to relocate here."
At the same time, the side effects of growth have increased demand for classroom space, prison beds, court services, jobless benefits, health care and other services for the poor — which is why state legislators are staring at a $2.6 billion budget shortfall when the 2010-11 fiscal year starts in July — the third consecutive year of budget holes created by a faltering economy.
And for the foreseeable future, economists predict tax receipts won't catch up with Florida's burgeoning demand for education, entitlement programs and public-safety services.
Some cite California as a model — to a point."Cut services? Hike taxes? Recession has GOP in a fix".
"California was very successful at creating great quality of life, a pretty good infrastructure system and a good education system," said state Rep. Will Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican slated to become House speaker in 2012. "What they did not do was keep their taxation system low, and their government spending got out of control. We want to do what California did, but keep your taxes low."
Blue dog blues
An internal poll released by the Lawson campaign conducted by "The Research Network shows state Senator Al Lawson leading incumbent Blue Dog Congressman Allen Boyd in the race for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District."
- Lawson: 34.9"The poll was conducted by The Research Network. Four hundred and forty-one likely voters in Florida’s Congressional District 2 were interviewed in a random sample taken November 12-16. Respondents were screened for their likelihood of voting in the August 2010 primary election. The sample was balanced according to all demographic factors. The margin of error for this survey is ± 4.6% with a 95% confidence level."
- Boyd: 30.7
Wingnut jumps into Kosmas race
"Paul P. Partyka, a real estate investor and former Winter Springs mayor, announced plans Thursday to challenge fellow Democrat and incumbent U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas in her 2010 re-election bid." "Former Winter Springs mayor to challenge Kosmas".
A bio piece on Partyka here: "Partyka to run against Kosmas".
If Crist switched parties ...
decided to see how Crist would perform in a general election as a Republican, Democrat, and Independent:"FL-Sen: Bombshell results" (Research 2000 for Daily Kos. 11/16-18. Likely voters MoE 4%).
All likely votersDon't get too excited with those Rubio/Meek numbers. 40 percent of Republicans are inexplicably "undecided" on that question. They'd come home.
Crist (R) 50
Meek (D) 33
Rubio (R) 30
Meek (D) 38
Now for the hypotheticals:
Crist (I) 32The three-way matchup is a statistical dead-heat, with the biggest undecided block being Democrats. Independents break 45% Crist, 27% Meek, and 22% Rubio. That would be an almost exact replay of NY-23.
Rubio (R) 27
Meek (D) 31
Rubio (R) 34
Crist (D) 45
On the two-way matchup with Crist as a Democrat, a third of Democrats are undecided. They'd like proof that Crist was a real Democrat, I'm sure. But ultimately, most would come home rather than give the birther-teabagger candidate the Senate seat. A quarter of independents are also undecided, though I won't pretend to guess what they'd do. Those who know what they want break 40 percent for Crist, 34 percent for Rubio.
If I'm Charlie Crist, I realize that I'm toast in the Republican primary. I note that a three-way race is a coin flip at best. But as a Democrat... switching parties and making an earnest transition on the issues would be the cleanest path to a Senate seat.
Sink on the move
DKos "also polled the governor's race -- it's a dead heat between Republican Bill McCollum (35), Democrat Alex Sink (33), and Undecided (32)." "FL-Sen: Bombshell results" (Research 2000 for Daily Kos. 11/16-18. Likely voters MoE 4%).
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Miami-Dade is an international hub for trade and tourism. So it's to be expected that the county's trade and tourism executives would be traveling abroad to pump up business here."
What's inexplicable is why county commissioners get to go along for the ride -- without any real accounting of the trade mission's success."Trade trips with a purpose, results".
There's not even a requirement that any such mission by the county-run International Trade Consortium should have Miami-Dade business people participate. Instead, a trip last month to Senegal and South Africa included Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, four county employees and business people from Jacksonville, Palatka, Daytona Beach and Boca Raton.
"The confluence is no accident"
"One group believes that homosexuals can be cured and runs programs aimed at putting gay men and lesbians on a straight path."
The other group believes such programs have tortured thousands of men and women, making it impossible for them to accept their natural sexual orientation and live happy lives."Conferences offering opposite views on homosexuality to converge in West Palm Beach".
The two polar opposites are to meet less than a mile apart in West Palm Beach beginning Friday. The confluence is no accident.
When gay rights activists learned the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality would hold its annual convention at the Marriott, they booked one at the nearby Crowne Plaza.
Not surprisingly, given the emotions surrounding the issue, neither group will leave town without being noticed.
"Folderol from Florida Republicans"
"Another week, more folderol from Florida Republicans."
Crist will speak to Escambia County Republicans at their annual Lincoln Day dinner Dec. 3. Escambia Republican Executive Committee Chair Susan Moore sent out the announcement more than a week ago. She also, it turns out, sent an e-mail to some supporters of former House Speaker Marco Rubio — who is running against Crist in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate — inviting them to attend in support of the county operation."No, really, they're happy to book the governor".
Some of those recipients then forwarded Moore's e-mail "misconstrued to sound as if I was apologizing for having the Governor as our featured speaker," Moore has since said.
It's the classic political gambit. Make your opponent deny a trumped-up charge, in this case being apologetic about hooking the state's chief executive for your big annual do.
Escambia's executive committee was embroiled in the summer's county "purge" of Ron Paul supporters, malcontents and political enemies (see for reference Brevard's ongoing Jason Steele tussle), with an officer suspended from a state committee for six months.
"Tobacco-tax collections in Florida are high and holding steady"
"Cigarettes sales are down 27 percent in Florida during the last four months, thanks to a new $1-a-pack tax designed to balance the budget and cut down on smoking. But despite the drop in sales, tobacco-tax collections in Florida are high and holding steady. That's because state economists accurately factored in the decrease in sales of smokes when they initially forecast the revenue from the surcharge that went into effect July 1. The new tax, which helps fund Medicaid, will raise $881 million this year and $907 million the next, the economists forecast Thursday when they analyzed cigarette-sales data." "Cigarette tax boosts state budget".
"Florida's senators: Room for improvement in health care reform bill".
"Although still in its honeymoon stage, the Rep. Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.) - Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) union has already produced tangible results." "Amigos from across the aisle".
Slow news day
Scott Maxwell: "Time for another round of hugs, slugs — and one ugh — for the politicians and newsmakers who help make Florida the unique, dynamic and occasionally stomach-turning place it is."
An ugh to the Florida Democratic Party for its (non-)news release about U.S. Sen. George LeMieux helping raise money for Charlie Crist. The Dems urged the media to look into this, saying, "Questions remain about the legitimacy of LeMieux's appointment and the cronyism that led to it." Questions remain? Are you kidding me? No, they don't. There are no questions about the legitimacy of LeMieux's appointment. We know it was cronyism. That's what LeMieux was — Charlie's crony. That's why he appointed him. That's why people were irritated — including Republicans who wanted a more respected and experienced statesman to get the job. And all that has been pretty widely documented by the press and everyone else. What's next, Dems? You going to suggest that top-secret sources have suggested Charlie likes to see himself on TV? Stop the presses!"A few slugs, a hug — and a little ugh".
Paul Flemming reports that "Ben Wilcox, who for a decade worked Tallahassee's corridors of power for liberal watchdog group Common Cause, has landed with the League of Women Voters of Florida. Common Cause, a victim of the recession, shut down operations in Florida in March.".
"Bless their changeable hearts"
Mark Lane: "Florida voters, bless their changeable hearts, voted overwhelmingly in 1998 to put an amendment into the state constitution declaring that running quality schools is a basic job of state government."
Since 1868, Florida has had some kind of constitutional mandate for educational quality, but since 1885, the language was just for show. After 1998, though, language became more emphatic. In fact, it is one of the strongest such declarations in any state constitution in the nation."You can declare on paper that schools are a vital priority, but this has a way of becoming just another vague, noble sentiment when it comes time to sweat out a state budget."
Sadly, state voters did not follow up this declaration by electing legislators committed to school funding. And anytime the same voters had a tax cut in front of them, they jumped at that, too.
The unsurprising result is that Florida schools remain among first things the state cuts in bad times. Florida now spends $1,694 per student less than it did in 2006-2007.
So the amendment -- now part of Article IX, Section 1(a) of the state constitution -- was always a lawsuit waiting to happen."Florida schools on trial". Background: "Lawsuit seeks to overhaul Florida education policies".
And this week that lawsuit was filed in Leon County.
It asks the court to declare the state has failed to live up to its basic educational responsibilities. It wants the court to order "a remedial plan that that conforms with the Florida Constitution." It wants the court to retain jurisdiction to ensure such a plan gets carried out. Which sounds like the equivalent of putting the state public school system into receivership.
This filing comes only weeks after the Florida American Civil Liberties Union filed its own suit against the state saying the graduation rate in Palm Beach County is so bad it violates the amendment. It, too, asks the courts to force state action and funding.
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board:
Florida remains 47th in the nation in graduation rates — despite some very good school districts, including Leon's, and excellent, if underpaid ($5,000 below the national average), teachers. Its per pupil spending is among the worst in the nation, with the state's share of school districts' budgets dropping from 62 percent in 2000 to 44 percent this year."These suits follow the threat of one in 2002 by the Florida Schools Boards Association, which never went forward with litigation, and the significant Bush v. Holmes interpretation of the constitutional requirement in 2006 by the Florida Supreme Court, which said that private school vouchers were diverting money away from the public schools." "Education violation"
Students drop out in frustration before they even enter high school; minority students are too often on the down side of the achievement gap, entering school unprepared to learn, and the digital divide exacerbates economic and social inequities that are irrefutable despite data manipulated to win political gold stars.
See you in Havana
"Cuba's celebrated and increasingly brassy [Generation Y] blogger Yoani Sánchez emerged Thursday as a player in U.S.-Cuba relations, scoring a lengthy reply from President Barack Obama to her questions and playing a starring role in a congressional hearing on efforts to let American tourists visit Cuba." "Blogger in Cuba has D.C.'s ears, not Raúl's". See also "Obama answers questions from top Cuban blogger".
Related: The Miami Herald editorial board: "Still in agony".
"Explosion of unregulated pain clinics"
"A Broward County grand jury suggests a series of new reforms to stop the explosion of unregulated pain clinics selling illegal narcotics. " "Broward grand jury recommend pain clinic reforms".
"The still-glowing public memory of past accidents"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board wtites this morning that "three factors are working in the nuclear power industry's favor to drown out the history and the fears. None are worth the safety or financial risks."
First, the industry is capitalizing on its campaign to make nuclear power seem like a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. The claim is only half right. Nuclear power produces virtually no greenhouse gases. But nuclear waste is among the most lethal materials on the planet. A repository for it has yet to be found. States such as California ban the construction of new nuclear plants until a permanent repository is accepting waste."Investing in nuclear power".
Second, lawmakers in Florida and Georgia are allowing utilities to surcharge their current customers for future construction cost of nuclear reactors the Nuclear Regulatory Agency hasn't even permitted yet. Instead of tapping reluctant investors, nuclear-powered utilities (including Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light) are squeezing customers, who have no choice. The Missouri Legislature rejected a similar scheme this year.
Third, the federal government is lavishing more than $120 billion in tax-dollar subsidies and loan guarantees on a bet to revive the nuclear-power industry -- money that would be more wisely invested on safer and surer renewable bets. That's the biggest force behind what the nuclear-power industry paints as a "renaissance." Without those subsidies and loan guarantees, it's unlikely the industry would be managing any revival at all, as investors remain unwilling to do what national and state governments are doing.
I believe that's three state troopers
"Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander is setting up a new office to help him figure out if the state is spending money wisely.
Alexander and his House counterparts have grappled with the state’s plummeting revenues and are facing a $2.7 billion projected spending gap in next year’s budget." "Need a job? Senate going to pay budget expert up to $170K a year".
Big of 'em
"After two hours of testimony, the City Council approves an ordinance that would protect transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations." "Tampa protects transgendered".
Entrepreneurs in action
"Officials at MacDill Air Force Base knowingly approved a $900,000 contract with a business owned by a disabled veteran, even though the work was performed by an unqualified company, a government report states. The Government Accountability Office report found that companies fraudulently collected at least $100 million in federal contracts from a $4 billion government program designated for disabled military veterans who run small businesses." "Report blasts MacDill contract with vet's firm".
"Jim Greer still has a job".
Potential $13.3 billion shortfall
Aaron Deslatte writes that "during the next three years, the state's total budget shortfall could reach $13.3 billion, economists predict. Here are some reasons:
- Required education spending will grow 10 percent next year, while tax dollars for schools coming from local property taxes are projected to fall 1.9 percent during the next three years thanks to declining home values. ..."The budget outlook".
- Growth in the Medicaid state-federal health-insurance program for the poor and elderly will require $1.2 billion more next year to keep its wide array of programs for the 2.7 million (and growing) Floridians with incomes low enough to qualify. ...
- Prison-bed construction during the next three years will require $652 million in new money to house Florida's 100,000-and-growing incarcerated population, plus more money to operate them.
Herald editors speak
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Ban texting while driving, audit state employees' official travel" "Capital news".
"A Coconut Grove businessman says he invested $2.16 million with Scott Rothstein after a friend solicited him to buy into a high-profit deal -- that returned nothing." "'Juice scam' victim: I was lured into Scott Rothstein deal". See also "Rothstein's law firm dissolves in wake of Ponzi allegations".
Jim Saunders: "Crist positive about SunRail project".