Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Special Session not so special

From the Miami Herald:

The plan for closing a $2.3 billion gap in the 2008-09 state budget proceeded along two tracks last weekend — one of political ideology, the other of economic expedience — and is headed for an early vote on Wednesday. If approved, the budget recommendations — which include cuts, borrowing and reductions in programs and services — will fulfill the one goal of the special session: producing a balanced budget.

So at least give legislators credit for doing their job. However, they deserve no praise or plaudits for smart planning, good governance, or creative thinking. And they certainly don’t deserve any commendation for seizing the moment of an extraordinarily massive recession. They are blowing a chance to begin the difficult job of addressing Florida’s revenue flaws and improve our state’s chances of surviving future economic crises.

Ready for bipartisanship

For now, state agencies must find ways to live with less, especially schools, social services, environmental and other programs. Also taking a big hit are contingency and trust funds, particularly the Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund. Agencies that get a break include those serving prisons, children’s hospitals, nursing homes and highway repairs.

Two important features have been missing from the budget negotiations: 1) Aggressive leadership from Gov. Charlie Crist; 2) a spirit of bipartisan participation.

President-elect Barack Obama is showing by example that reaching across the political divide for ideas and support can yield positive results. And the country clearly is ready for it. This message hasn’t reached the Legislature’s Republican majority, which is clinging to an Our Way or The Highway approach. In fairness, this is the same tactic used by the Democratic majority when it controlled the Legislature in the 1980s and ’90s. But this approach doesn’t serve the best interest of 18 million Floridians.

Consider all good ideas

The Republicans’ mantra of No New Taxes is generally considered to be sound practice during an economic downturn. But several factors suggest that Florida’s position is the exception that makes the rule: Our state relies too heavily on sales-tax revenues; there are readily available funds through a tax on Internet sales in the state; and some exemptions to the sales tax are unnecessary and woefully outdated.

Lawmakers no longer can afford to ignore the good ideas of some members because of party affiliation, or refuse to tap resources that can stave off future budget crises.

This special session is a patch job, a Band-Aid — and nothing more. Maybe lawmakers will address the flaws that perennially plague us in the regular session this spring. There always is hope.


Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , ,

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