"Florida's upcoming bad budget year is looking even worse, now that state analysts are predicting a shortfall of at least $3.5 billion in revenue to cover the Florida's most basic needs."
That's a jump from the $2.5 billion budget gap that the analysts were predicting just a month ago for 2011-2012, which starts July 1. And it could easily could widen to a $4.5 billion, depending on how much money lawmakers decide to set aside for a rainy day.
"Bigger budget shortfall expected next year".
That's bad news for Gov.-elect Rick Scott, who ran for election on pledges to slash business and property taxes. Scott claims that tax cuts will boost the economy and improve the state's fiscal health, but when and to what extent that would happen remains unclear.
In the meantime, Scott will have to propose his first state budget proposal in early February based on Tuesday's revenue estimate.
Of course, "[c]utting taxes would make the budget gap bigger."
But Scott won't say what he'll reduce in the budget -- which he'll propose in February -- to offset his tax cuts."When asked by reporters to provide budget cut details and whether that will include employee layoffs, Scott repeated familiar refrains such as 'streamlining government' and 'looking at programs.' He also said he 'might' privatize prisons.
The top budget writers for the House and Senate are also puzzled by Scott's pledge to cut taxes in a year of big budget holes.
"Scott faces deepening statewide budget gap". See also "New state revenue estimate could add $1B to budget gap" and "Florida's Budget Hole Now at Least $3.5 Billion".
"I haven't heard from him how he'll do it all,'' state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales said, echoing his House counterpart, state Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring.
So far, the soft-spoken Scott has listened more than he has talked to legislators. From the questions Scott posed, it was clear that he wants to overhaul state workers' pensions and may tackle teacher tenure.
Meanwhile, "Rick Scott's Call for Cost-Cutting Ideas Goes Largely Unanswered".
Wingnut calls for censorship
"Rep.-elect Allen West (R-Fla.) may have proven himself a prime pupil for fellow Rep. Michele Bachmann's forthcoming constitutional classes, when he recently displayed selective reverence for the Tea Party's most sacred document by calling for American news outlets to be censored for running stories based on the recent WikiLeaks cable dump." "Allen West: Government 'Should Be Censoring The American News Agencies' That Collaborated With WikiLeaks". See also "West calls for ‘censoring’ news outlets working with WikiLeaks".
Knuckle-draggers of the day
The constitutional law scholars comprising the Tampa Tribune editorial board are our Knuckle-draggers of the day. However, the day is still young, and there are plenty out there who are capable of giving them a run for their money.
Meanwhile, The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board observes that "health care reform should ultimately withstand constitutional challenges filed by opponents. And that makes it all the more aggravating that Florida's highly partisan leaders are trying to stonewall its implementation, demonstrating both contempt for federal authority and a lack of compassion for the 4 million Floridians without health insurance and other residents who could benefit under the new law."
The editors single out the empty suits who
gloated that the ruling was progress for their anti-health reform efforts. Senate President Mike Haridopolos promised Floridians will ultimately opt out all together under a constitutional amendment he's proposing: "If Obama- Care somehow survives these legal challenges, Floridians can have the same opportunity to do what companies and big labor unions are already doing — opt out of this new law." That's a waste of time and money on an issue that ultimately will be decided at the U.S. Supreme Court. The real message coming from the Republican leadership in Tallahassee is not just a disregard for federal authority but for millions of Floridians who can't find or afford health insurance. Their message to their constituents: You're on your own."Playing politics with reform". The Palm Beach Post editors: "Actually, no one is winning".
The Sarasota-Herald Tribune editors put it bluntly:
Opting out of health insurance, when you have the income to pay for it, is an irresponsible act. It means that you spend your money on whatever you want, while expecting other people to pick up the tab if you get sick or injured.
It's a selfish decision and a short-sighted one. So why are Republicans -- the so-called party of personal responsibility -- standing up for it in their war against federal health-care reform? ...
Republicans and many of the state attorneys general challenging the health-care law paint the individual insurance mandate as "big government" run amok, infringing on liberty and personal freedom. But the flag-draped imagery is full of holes.
Health care isn't free. Failing to pay your fair share toward the good of the nation has nothing to do with liberty, and everything to do with irresponsibility.
Dumb and dumberer
Nancy Smith: "You Were Expecting What? Intelligence? Oh, Rick Scott, You Silly!".
As Ricky frets ...
"As Florida puts the brakes on its high speed rail plan [(postponed from Nov. 15 to early next year, as Gov.-elect Rick Scott frets about unforeseen costs to Florida taxpayers)], corporations from around the world are eagerly pressing for bragging rights as builders of the first such line in the United States." "Florida sidetracks rail, but international builders are all aboard".
Pay-to-play in Tally, or "you're 'toast'"
Fred Grimm: "Pay-to-play was described as only half the Tallahassee ethos."
Don't pay, Alan Mendelsohn told U.S. District Judge William Zloch during his federal court confessional, and you're "toast.''
" "Eye doc's fraud sheds no light on Tally's myopia".
"This is a pretty sorry state of affairs with regards to what goes on in the statehouse,'' said Zloch, disgusted by the wider implications of Mendelsohn's guilty plea -- that power and influence are commodities bought and sold in the state capital.
Except the Mendelsohn investigation has wound down to something less than the case that would expose an utterly corrupt legislative process. ...
What the Mendelsohn case (again, so far) revealed was a legislative process so completely sodden with influence money that he figured to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars without anyone noticing. He got away with it, too, until he made the mistake of defrauding a fellow crook.
Speaking of paying to play ...
Daytona Beach "Locals have hand in donating to Scott's inauguration" ("companies with local ties were among the contributors, with Radiology Imaging Associates giving $10,000; Delaware North Companies (owner of the Daytona Beach Kennel Club) giving $6,000; and Mori Hosseini's Intervest Construction giving the maximum $25,000.")
"Bold New" what?
"With most of Florida still recovering from the 2010 election cycle, Jacksonville turns its attention to the battle shaping up to see who will be the Bold New City of the South’s next mayor."
"The field includes a number of prominent Republicans including Duval County Tax Collector Mike Hogan, who also served on the Jacksonville City Council as well as winning two terms in the House; Audrey Moran, most recently president and CEO of the Sulzbacher Center and a former chief of staff under Mayor John Delaney, a former assistant state attorney who also served director of legislative affairs for Mayor Ed Austin; and Rick Mullaney, who also served as chief of staff under Delaney as well as general counsel of the city. Retired Air Force veteran Robert Hutcherson, James Moser and David Crosby are also running for mayor as Republicans.
"Crowded Field Running for Mayor in Jacksonville".
On the Democratic side, Alvin Brown, a Clinton administration official who served closely under Al Gore and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, and City Councilwoman Glorious Johnson are the top candidates in the race. Registered nurse Brenda White, retired Marine and correctional officer Warren Lee and Christopher Hills round out the Democratic field.
Polluted water committee
"Last Tuesday, House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, announced the establishment of a Select Committee on Water Policy that aims to 'thoughtfully address the profoundly important issue of Florida’s water resources.' But a review of campaign contributions given to one of the committee’s leaders raises questions about whether environmental priorities will guide the committee’s work."
But who makes up the committee? ... Cannon named state Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, as chairwoman of the committee ...
"Cannon creates water policy committee, but questions about its purpose abound".
In 1999, Williams was appointed to the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District by then-Gov. Jeb Bush and, during her most recent campaign, ran on a platform that touted a heavy focus on water policies and the environment.
Though Williams has portrayed herself as an environmental ally, many of her past campaign contributors are notable environmental foes.
Rotten teeth OK with Putnam
"The State Board of Education was slated to discuss moving ahead with a ban on certain sodas and chocolate milk at its meeting this Friday in Miami. If the board had moved ahead Florida could have been the first state to ban the sale of chocolate milk. But in a letter to State Board Chairman T. Willard Fair[*] dated Nov. 28, Putnam criticizes the focus on sugary drinks and asks board members to consider postponing action." "Incoming Agriculture Commissioner wants to delay ban on sugary drinks in schools".
- - - - - - - - - -
* You remember Mr. Fair, the man who publicly announced to Jebbie Bush: "In my judgment, there is no greater person on this Earth than you. I love you."
Bush-era holdovers "plotting to turn public schools into relics"
Daniel Ruth: "Let's face it, by now it's become abundantly obvious that former Gov. Jeb Bush, and his political paramour, Gov.-elect Rick Scott, regard a public school education with about the same esteem as the Taliban's Mullah Omar has when finding himself stuck in an elevator with Lady Gaga."
A few days ago, the governor-to-be proposed blowing up the state's public school system, calling for a gimmick to provide every family in the state vouchers to send their little dickens to any educational system they want: private, public or even virtual schools. If he succeeds, families would receive a voucher worth $5,500, or about 85 percent of the per-student cost of educating a Florida public school student, to be applied to their kiddo's learning.
"Scott's new, old schools scheme".
Or put another way, much like the way he ran the massive Columbia HCA hospital chain, Scott would, in effect, lead a hostile takeover of public institutions. He would essentially privatize the schools, drive out the public sector end of education and leave families to fend for themselves in educating their children — only without (hopefully) all the fraud charges that Scott's hospital company resolved by paying record fines.
The plot to turn Florida public schools into relics was hatched by the governor-elect's 18-member education star chamber transition team, which included so many Bush-era holdovers it is little wonder Jeb's dog Marvin wasn't on the panel. ...
In the end, a cynic might well come to the conclusion that Scott's scam to blow up the state's public school system has less to do with some surreal argument about improving educational quality and more to do with an attempt to geld the state's teacher unions by methodically draining away school funding.
"We need a timeout for sanity"
Scott Maxwell: "This, my friends, is the sorry state of education in Florida. We've already cut sports programs, music classes and guidance counselors."
Yet, with state funding levels that make Florida look like the dollar store of public school systems — we usually rank about 40th for per-pupil spending — Tallahassee lawmakers want to cut even more.To be fair, "Florida doesn't trail the nation in every national ranking. Legislators have one of the most generous health-care plans in America. They don't want to short-change themselves … just your kids."
And Gov.-elect Rick Scott wants to siphon another $1.4 billion in property taxes away from schools as well.
"Fla. school cheer: Gimme a C-H-E-A-P!".
We need a timeout for sanity. Because we can do better.
I'm not even talking great. I'm just talking average.
Maybe that should be our new goal — to simply fund our children's education worse than only half of the states in America.
Raw political courage
"Lost sales because of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill were bad enough. Now the Florida Retail Federation wants a couple of sales-tax holidays to lure visitors back and jump-start sales. And they want BP to pay for it." "Sales-tax holidays proposed". See also "FRF to BP: Cough Up $20 Million to Revitalize NW Florida Retail Market".
Anything to win
"Sheriff Al Lamberti wants to end the 'party' at the Broward Sheriff's Office. He's thinking about making a push to make elections for his office nonpartisan. He says he just wants to take partisan politics out of the sheriff elections. But critics say it's a move to make it easier for Republicans, like Lamberti, to win more easily in overwhelmingly Democratic Broward." "Al Lamberti may push for nonpartisan Broward sheriff's elections".
Florida's unemployment rate well above the national average
The Daytona Beach News Journal editors: "Florida's unemployment rate has been running well above the national average." "Local leaders should talk about jobs, jobs, jobs".
Conflict of interest?
"Rep. Rich Glorioso ... is one of 28 initial applicants seeking to become the next secretary of the Department of Transportation." "House member among those seeking top job at Department of Transportation".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "When the Florida Supreme Court issued an administrative order designed to keep lenders from delaying foreclosure auctions solely as a tactic to save money, justices inadvertently worsened the state's foreclosure crisis." "New solution, new problem".
Top Florida political story for the year?
"Fall of Crist? Election of Rick Scott? What's the top political story for the year?"
Another greedy public employee
"Fla. corrections officer, son shot, killed".
Foley slows way down
"Mark Foley announced Tuesday night that he will not run for mayor of West Palm. 'After much prayer and consulting with my family over the last couple days, I've come to the conclusion that is now is not the time,' Foley, a Republican, told his radio audience." "Mark Foley says he's not running for mayor of West Palm Beach".
"Deputies: Jewelry store owner, suspects exchange gunfire". More: "Man shoots Fla. school board members, self at meeting |".
"The Public Service Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to freeze Florida Power & Light customers' base rates through the end of 2012. FPL struck the agreement this summer with consumer advocates, Attorney General Bill McCollum and others who had opposed the utility's request to raise base rates by a record $1.27 billion last year. The groups started negotiating with FPL after the PSC rejected all but 6 percent of the proposed increase in January." "PSC freezes FPL's base rates for two years". See also "Florida Power & Light's customer base rates frozen through 2012".