"A slump in sales-tax collections and a spike in Medicaid costs is prompting state economists to forecast an even bigger budget shortfall for next year."
Florida's foreclosure crisis is so bad that more homes are being vacated than are being sold to home buyers, adding to excess inventory, Baker said. Three of the top 10 metropolitan areas with the highest numbers of foreclosures are in Florida: Cape Coral/Fort Myers (No. 2), Miami-Fort Lauderdale (7) and Orlando-Kissimmee (10).
"Budget gap swells to $3 billionEconomist: State budget shortfall could top $3 billion", "As Economy Falters, State Budget Gap Grows Toward $3.5 Billion", "Budget shortfall grows as state's fiscal picture darkens" and "Florida sues to block new water-quality standards".
Due to record foreclosures and a continuing drop in the value of real estate, property-tax collections are running $150 million below the state's conservative projections. Median home prices have dropped by nearly 50 percent, from 257,800 five years ago to 136,000 today, Baker's report said.
Federal economic stimulus money will soon dry up and the state will also have to start repaying a $1.8 billion loan from the federal government for unemployment compensation.
As for Rick Scott's simplistic response to the budget crisis, the Senate Budget Committee Chairman
hinted that Gov.-elect Rick Scott's campaign promises for deep spending and tax cuts may run into trouble in the Legislature. ...
"Florida's 2011-12 budget outlook gloomier".
"Now we are in the governing mode," [Committee Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales] said. "I would hope that all of us take a deep breath and move away from campaign rhetoric and start focusing on how do we make the best decisions possible to move our state forward."
Meanwhile, "business interests get exclusive access to ask Florida's incoming governor for more tax money to spend, less taxes to pay and fewer regulations to obey." "Rick Scott, business chiefs meet". More: "Scott starts Back to Work tour". See also Scott Maxwell's "Secret meetings & public officials a bad mix".
Bits and Pieces
Kevin Derby: "Political Bits and Pieces".
Florida fights clean water rules
"Florida sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday seeking to block new clean water regulations opposed by business and agriculture interests as well as some municipal utilities."
Florida is the first state where the EPA has imposed such regulations although 13 others have adopted similar rules of their own. ...
"Fla. sues EPA over new rules for water". See also "McCollum, Bondi, Bronson, Putnam file suit over EPA’s water quality standards" and "Florida Sues EPA Over Water Standards".
The case was filed in the same Pensacola federal court where McCollum is challenging President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
This ought to make the Jeff Davis fans out there happy: "Fla. Attorney General cites state's rights in suing feds over stricter water rules".
Hurry up Ricky, and "Get to Work"
"Thousands of Florida mortgage brokers will be out of work after Dec. 31." "Thousands of Fla. mortgage brokers may lose jobs".
Heaven help us
"After Christians complained about Halloween decorations, the state has decided to ban holiday decorations of any kind at all toll booths along the 460 miles of Florida's Turnpike." "Turnpike bans holiday decorations after Christians' Halloween complaints".
Haridopolos thickens the plot
"Senate President Mike Haridopolos has thickened the plot by saying Republicans would resurrect the teacher pay and accountability bill that was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist last session. ... Now, with Republicans gaining supermajorities in both the House and the Senate, and Crist leaving office, GOP leaders are confident they can enact an SB 6-style reform bill. Incoming Gov. Rick Scott -- a vocal proponent of performance-based compensation and competition-driven school initiatives -- is on the same wavelength." "SB 6, Part Deux: GOP Pushes School Reform".
House committee chairmen named
"Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, named more chairmen and vice chairmen of House committees Tuesday, committees that will shape legislation and laws in Florida for the next two years." "Dean Cannon Names Committee Leaders". Related: "Florida House Creates Select Committee on Water Policy".
How many wingnuts can you fit in a theater?
"Several state legislators screened the education reform documentary 'Waiting for Superman' in Tallahassee Tuesday, then discussed the possibility and parameters of legislation to improve Florida's schools." "Legislators View Education Reform Flick ‘Waiting for Superman’".
A question for the teacher haters
The Palm Beach Post editorial board "what reform have teacher unions blocked?"
Since 1999, when Jeb Bush first used the FCAT as a school-grading tool, there's been a boom in vouchers and charter schools. The state constantly has trumpeted educational progress, most recently in Tuesday's improvements in high school grades.
"On teacher merit pay, Florida has a reformer".
If teacher unions have blocked reform, it doesn't show. In particular, it doesn't show in Hillsborough County. Dr. Rhee, who took on the nation's worst school system, is a celebrity reformer. She was given heroic treatment in Waiting For Superman, a film that touts charter schools. There was a rumor she might be Florida's next education commissioner. And she just formed a national group to push reforms.
But [Hillsborough County Superintendent MaryEllen Elia] is an actual Florida reformer. The lesson from her school district is that teachers will agree to evaluations and merit pay. They don't like to be bullied. They do like to be asked. It's not too late for Rick Scott - or Sen. Thrasher and his comrades in the Legislature - to ask them.
"Loving a Lawsuit"
Nancy Smith: "My Two Firsts: Loving a Lawsuit and Praising Bill McCollum".
Entrepreneurs in action
"Bank of America has agreed to a $67 million settlement with several states including Florida amid an investigation into allegations members of the bank took part in a scheme involving bids on municipal bond derivatives." "Fla. A.G.: Bank of America rigged municipal bond bids".
"Civil Rights Association, Rep. Brown up in arms over 'SWAT-like' barbershop raids".
Limbaugh scratches Orlando off his list
"No more pain management clinics will be allowed to open for the next year in the county that is home to Orlando. Orange County commissioners on Tuesday imposed a yearlong moratorium on the clinics in unincorporated parts of the county in an effort to stop prescription drug abuse in the area." "Fla. county stops new pain clinics".
"Florida's clemency board on brink of pardoning Doors' singer Morrison for 1969 exposure conviction".
Taj Mahal for rent ... not cheap
"The $49 million 1st District Court of Appeal continued to get bashed Tuesday and a state Senate committee chairman said he'd offer the new building to other tenants." "Fla. Sen. Fasano: Offer new 1st DCA building to other tenants".
"Broward County leads Florida in the number of hate crimes reported in 2009." "Broward leads Florida in reported hate crimes in 2009, report says".
Mr. Huckabee comes to Florida
"Huckabee comes to sell books, test political waters".
Tally Dem kerfuffle
"After dumping their chairman Monday, Leon County Democrats want to run off Democratic National Committeeman Jon Ausman for taking sides in party primaries." "Local Democrats in disarray".
LeMieux "said he'll decide "pretty soon" whether to run for the Senate in 2012, when Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is up for reelection." "U.S. Sen George LeMieux still deciding whether to challenge Bill Nelson".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Allen West's staff choices continue to suggest that the congressman-elect will govern much like he campaigned: as a soldier waging war rather than a lawmaker setting policy."
Mr. West's first decision after winning was to hire hyperbolic radio talk-show host Joyce Kaufman as his chief of staff. Ms. Kaufman, who has no relevant experience to run a congressional office, resigned after learning that her comments may have incited a threat of violence that led to a three-hour lockdown last month at 300 Broward County schools.
"Another bad staff choice for West's congressional office".
Mr. West's second act was to hire former WPTV-Channel 5 reporter Angela Sachitano as his press secretary. Ms. Sachitano was suspended last summer for moonlighting as Mr. West's media consultant. Ms. Sachitano, who maintains that she has a "stellar reputation as a journalist," also has been accused by West Palm Beach police of illegally taping detectives while reporting a story. In Florida, doing so is a third-degree felony. Depending on who you believe, she was fired from the station or resigned to work for Mr. West.
Any rookie reporter should know that it's unethical for reporters to work on political campaigns.
Silly School Grades
The Saint Petersburg Times editors point out that
a change in how schools were graded this year makes year-to-year comparisons almost futile. Only half of a high school's grade was based on the old formula, which focused almost exclusively on FCAT scores. So a school may have improved or it may have worsened, but its change in letter grade this year is no sure indication of either. "Schools improve, but more to do".
The Orlando Sentinel editors believe that "fears are well founded — not just because of the growing backlash among some in Washington against infrastructure and environmental protection projects. But because Washington officials are expert at turning their backs on the Glades. In its decade-old Everglades cleanup agreement with Florida, Washington promised to pay half the project's cost. But as of last year, according to the Everglades Coalition, it had paid about one-sixth of what Florida had invested." "Everglades angst".
This will be the last time ...
"Gov. Charlie Crist and the three other members the Florida Cabinet met for the last time Tuesday. During an unusually lengthy meeting that lasted five hours, the four approved a controversial biomass plant in Gainesville, approved the transfer of state lands in Collier County to the federal government and even honored a Labrador retriever named Ace, which was formally retired from the state Fire Marshal's Office as an accelerant sniffer." "In last meeting, Cabinet approves power plant". Related: "Sink takes swipe at BP claims czar in last Cabinet meeting for her, Crist, others".
Firefighters rescue 15
Gulf Breeze - "15 saved in apartment fire".
The fire apparently was due to a space heater. Here are some space heater safety tips from IAFF, Local 2. And, in advance of, and during the holidays IAFF Local 1197 offers the following holiday fire safety tips for holiday lights and candles, trees, decorations and wrappings.