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Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Florida Set to blow Stimulus Money

From the Palm Beach Post.

Gov. Crist and the Legislature should act as if the money from the stimulus bill is temporary, since it is. Unfortunately, the governor is acting as if the money will be permanent.

Even before he knows that the federal government will grant a waiver and let education money flow to Florida, Gov. Crist is putting his budget in turnaround before releasing it Friday. Out will be any serious budget cuts. Out will be any discussion of new revenue. In will be the lyrics to Happy Days Are Here Again, and talk of a new tax-cut proposal in 2010, when the governor is on the ballot for reelection or election to the Senate.

The governor’s early comments amount to political hypocrisy and fiscal recklessness. Yes, Florida may get $12.2′ billion from the stimulus, but only $2.5 billion to $3 billion probably will be allocated to close the potential state budget gap of $5 billion for 2009-10. The gap for 2010-11 is uncertain. Other money is targeted for construction and energy projects to create jobs. Most money for states is supposed to go out by Sept. 30, 2010, so the budget miracle won’t last.

As a state senator, Gov. Crist tried to kill the tobacco lawsuit that created the Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund. As governor, he raided the fund to balance the budget. Gov. Crist is a self-styled low-tax, small-government politician when it suits him. But he’s celebrating the nearly $800 billion spending plan that could result in a federal tax increase and is big government at its very biggest.

In fact, nothing about the stimulus should stop the governor and Legislature from acting as if the money isn’t coming. As Robert Weissert of Florida TaxWatch noted: “This is non-recurring money. If the state spends too much of it on recurring expenses (notably education and health care), there could be serious problems in that third year, when there won’t be any help from Washington.”

Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, suggested in an interview that the governor has been counting on the stimulus all along. In November, when Sen. Atwater stressed the need to look at the whole tax and budget system, “The governor said, ‘That won’t be necessary.”” Now, Sen. Atwater said, “It will be far more difficult to have a serious discussion of our tax structure.”

He added: “We don’t know the length and breadth of this recession. We are taking a great risk if we consider this some crazy golden bridge to the future. I don’t know about new revenue, but I want to develop a fairer tax system that doesn’t place the burden on a few people.”

Like so many have already said, are there any doubts left that Charlie Crist is willing to sacrifice the long-term financial health of Florida on the altar of his personal political ambitions?

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

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