"Florida failed to properly prepare"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Since when is borrowing billions of dollars from the federal government a fiscally conservative strategy?"
Yet Gov. Charlie Crist, Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul, all self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives, are vowing to roll back slated increases in unemployment compensation taxes. That means the state will have to continue borrowing from the federal government at a tremendous clip to meet jobless claims."Ducking their duties".
Crist is calling on legislative leaders to postpone 2010 increases in unemployment taxes. Cretul, R-Ocala, says he wants rollbacks for the next two years so that the minimum state tax amount per worker is around $25 and not the current $100.30.
This is in direct response to Associated Industries, the powerful business lobbying group, and Florida employers who are balking at up to 12-fold increases in per-worker taxes at a time when many businesses are struggling. Last year, the minimum annual rate for unemployment taxes was only $8.40 per worker. Now it's $100.30. The maximum annual rate also rose from $378 per employee in 2009 to $459 in 2010.
This sharp boost occurred because Florida failed to properly prepare for a significant recession when times were good.
Florida trailing even Georgia
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Facing yet another multibillion-dollar budget shortfall when they convene for their annual session next month, Florida legislators are bound to slap more spending cuts on state agencies."
But before they take a fresh whack at funding for the state court system, and turn Lady Justice into Venus de Milo, they should consider the consequences, and take advantage of an alternative."Even as the court system's budget has been shrinking, its case load has been surging. Last year's total of 4.6 million cases in trial courts represented a jump of 13 percent from two years earlier. Cases related to the recession — especially foreclosures — accounted for much of the increase."
Unlike other targets of budget cuts, the court system is a separate, equal branch of government. Yet since 2007, legislators have slashed funding for courts by more than 10 percent and eliminated almost 300 jobs.
Florida's courts already are lean compared with their counterparts around the nation. The state has fewer trial judges per 1,000 residents, at 4.5, than the national average of 7.3. Georgia has more than twice as many judges as Florida per 1,000 residents, at 10.7."Don't deny justice".
"An RNC spokeswoman declined to name cities vying for 2012, but The Associated Press has reported that Phoenix and Salt Lake City will join Tampa as possible locations." "Tampa among 4 finalists for 2012 Republican convention".
"Merit" ... RPOF style
"Might C.W. Bill Young's wife or son succeed him in congress?".
Thank you, Mr. Obama
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Nearly half a billion dollars is flowing through the Florida economy like fresh rain on saw grass, with long-overdue federal funds reviving efforts to restore the Everglades. " "Everglades dollars make jobs, aid nature".
"Florida State University scientists pledged this morning to dig deeper into the potential environmental effects of offshore drilling at an afternoon symposium." "FSU scholars pledge in-depth examination of off-shore drilling".
"Florida's Tea Party movement"
"Getting your arms around Florida's Tea Party movement is like trying to hug a jellyfish:"
There's no good place to grab on, and if there were, you'd probably get stung."GOP hopefuls walk fine line with Tea Party activists".
Ask U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, a conservative Republican from Bartow who sees potential in the movement's amorphous energy and anger — if it can be harnessed.
"Anger alone will not retake the majority for the Republican Party," Putnam warned party members recently. "It's just a passion. It is not a plan for government."
With their commitment, zeal and sometimes wacky signs, Tea Partiers could be the next big thing for the GOP.
"'Unless the whole point is political'"
"Amid allegations that it was politicizing the job of the public advocate on utility cases, the Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight decided to move ahead and seek applications for the job, thereby forcing Public Counsel J.R. Kelly to compete with others to keep his job."
Rep. Jim Waldman, a Coconut Creek Democrat, said that the legislature went through the process of seeking applicants for the office two years ago when Kelly was first hired and the law only requires that he be reconfirmed. He doesn’t see a need to open it up for new applications "unless the whole point is political.""Legislators tell consumer advocate he must compete to keep his job".
We are drowning
Myriam Marquez: "South Florida has the sun and surf, the dazzling nightlife, the cruise ships and national sports teams."
It's an international tourist mecca during the winter months, and trade through our airports and seaports pumps billions of dollars into our economy."It makes sense to invest more in higher education".
We also have a glistening skyline with thousands of empty condos, high unemployment, a growing number of poor people and unskilled workers, and our best and brightest students are being lured to other states offering better career opportunities.
We are in a word, drowning.
Bill solves corruption!
"Florida attorney general unveils public-corruption hotline".
Running government like a business
"The head of Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice has reimbursed the state $28,811 for travel expenses between Tallahassee and his home in St. Petersburg." "Fla. juvenile justice chief reimburses state". See also "Juvenile justice chief repays $28,000 in travel bills".
Bill Cotterell: "The Florida Department of Law Enforcement recently gave a Senate committee a list of cost-cutting ideas that, if adopted throughout Florida government, would radically change state employment. ... What FDLE tossed out are not necessarily recommendations but ideas. Saying they could be done doesn't mean anyone wants to do them, but here are some of the major points:"
# Allow agencies to implement furloughs, rather than layoffs, to meet budget deficits. The trouble with that is, the state saves some money but the work doesn't get done. "FDLE shows the way to savings".
# Reverse the 2001 "Service First" personnel actions that moved nearly 17,000 state employees from Career Service to Selected Exempt. That would mean they'd start paying for health insurance again, but they'd get some job security in return. Some legislators have proposed just making everybody pay, without returning those SES employees to Career Service.
# Provide some early-retirement incentives, as some cities and counties have done, to help the state shed higher-earning employees and replace them with younger, lower-earning workers (or take the opportunity to consolidate jobs and not replace folks).
# Increase the period for vesting in the Florida Retirement System from six years to 10.
# Don't let everybody join the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. Letting department heads approve DROP applications would mean they could tell some senior employees to just go ahead and retire, replacing them (or not) with lower-paid workers. Those in critical positions could be approved for DROP, which allows their pensions to be banked for up to five years while they continue working. But you run into favoritism and discrimination with that option.
# Offer buyouts to employees nearing retirement or running out the DROP clock. This would be a better deal for the state than having to lay off newer employees, many of whom have had some extensive training at the taxpayers' expense.
And here's one idea that probably no legislator has looked at in years, if ever. Bailey said the Legislature should "examine the number of commissions and councils and the number of participants on those commissions and councils, to determine where eliminations, reductions or consolidations might be appropriate."
"Gov. Crist can keep count -- sort of".
"Florida rail projects an economic sling-shot"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "One of the more promising lines out of President Obama's State of the Union address, at least for Floridians:"
"There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains." Instead, Central Florida should have them, especially since a good portion of European and Chinese tourists to the United States make the area's fantasy-rich theme parks a choice stop on their itinerary."High-speed recovery". Carl Hiaasen: "Fast trains are cool . . . and very expensive".
Obama followed with an even better line, and $1.25 billion in federal money to underwrite it: "Tomorrow, I'll visit Tampa, Fla., where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act."
It's not the $2.65 billion Florida was seeking. But it won't be just $1.25 billion, either, if Florida makes good on what Obama is calling a down-payment on the state's 21st century infrastructure. Florida's share this time around is taken from the $787 billion stimulus package Congress passed in February. The package included $8 billion for high-speed rail development in 31 states, including 13 major corridors. (California is getting $2.5 billion.)
Even if Florida got the full amount it requested, it wouldn't have the capacity to spend it in the next two years. The high-speed rail line, which would stretch from Tampa to Orlando International Airport along Interstate 4 (with stops in Lakeland and Walt Disney World) wouldn't be running until 2015. Between now and then, Obama is promising more.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Approve FAU med school".
"President Obama has killed NASA's $100 billion plans to return astronauts to the moon on the seventh anniversary of the space shuttle tragedy that triggered the return to the moon plan." "Obama's budget proposal kills NASA moon mission on Columbia anniversary".
TeaBaggers planning counter-protest?
"Opponents of offshore drilling near Florida's coasts are hoping to draw a figurative line in the sand with a statewide protest later this month." "Drilling opponents to join hands in Feb. 13 protest".
"The governor said he did not know ..."
"Crist said Monday the federal government has agreed to reimburse the state for treating victims of Haiti's earthquake. The governor also said he never requested emergency medical evacuations be halted, only that the state receive help in responding to them. The flights were suspended for several days last week but restarted Sunday after the White House said it was told hospitals in Florida and elsewhere have enough space for the victims. One such flight was expected to arrive in Florida Monday night."
"Florida never said we wanted to stop taking Haitians. All we said was that we would appreciate help continuing to help our friends from the island," the governor said. "And that's exactly what has happened.""Gov: Fla. to be reimbursed for Haiti victim costs". See also "Crist: Federal government to reimburse Haitians' expenses" and "Airlifts from Haiti to South Florida to resume". Related: "Florida hospitals insist they're ready to welcome Haitian patients".
The governor said he did not know what triggered the suspension of military medical evacuation flights.