Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

$44 Million in Free Insurance

Florida’s budget could gain $44 million if all of those State employees who are eligible for free insurance were to sign up and pay the usual rates – that includes our legislators.  Over 1,000 of those state employees eligible make at least $100,000 per year.  Interestingly enough, the subject has not even come up in the Legislature’s budget talks.

Read more here.


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

Jax Can Learn From Boynton Beach

Facing a projected $16 million deficit due to marked decreases in property tax revenues and other revenue sources, Boynton Beach is already taking steps to stem the flow of red.  City Hall is now closed on Fridays.  Among the other options under consideration: 

  • Require all city departments to submit budgets that show no increase from this year.
  • Reopen collective bargaining agreements with police and fire employees to provide the option of changing wages.
  • Research alternative employee pension plans for future new employees that would be cheaper for the city, and early retirement incentives for longer-serving employees.
  • Dissolve or reduce the size of the community redevelopment agency and absorb its tax revenue into the city’s coffers.
  • The Boynton Beach commission will continue its budget discussion next month over whether to postpone or cancel certain capital improvement projects, sell city land and change its policy on take-home vehicles for employees.

    Read the Palm Beach Post story here.

    Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , ,

    Local Senator Leading Education Compromise

    Finally….it looks like the Legislature might be getting somewhere on education issues.  Local senator Steve Wise, long known for his hard work in the Legislature on education issues, is leading the efforts in the Senate to reach a compromise between Democrats and Republicans on education issues.  According to the St. Pete Times:

    State Senate leaders are crafting a plan to combine a proposed class-size amendment with a penny sales tax increase for education and put the issue before voters as soon as this fall.

    The deal is designed to bridge the divide between Republicans and Democrats on the two major education issues of this year’s legislative session. Republicans would get the class-size modification they seek, and Democrats would get the penny sales tax they have been hoping for as money dedicated to public education.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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

    Scanning Florida’s Legislative and Budget News

    You know it can’t be a good sign of things to come when you find the statement below as postonpolitics.com’s Quote of the Day, while scanning various newspapers for Florida legislative and budget news. 

    “We threw that away.”

    –Senate Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Chairman Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, on Gov. Charlie Crist’s budget recommendations.

    The last thing Floridians need during these tough economic times is a fight between the Legislature and the Governor. Read the rest of this entry »

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

    St. Johns County mom gives Legislature a dose of reality

    From tallahassee.com. 

    Nervously clutching a stack of angry letters from fellow elementary school parents, still wearing her Watson Realty nametag, 35-year-old Pamela Hennen of St. Johns County came to the lectern this morning at the Finance and Tax Council to offer a final and opposing view.

    With a calm, off-the-cuff performance, she stole the show.

    For two mind-numbing hours, Hennen listened quietly to lobbyists and lawmakers defend sales-tax breaks for everything from stadium skyboxes to U.S. flags as the committee tries to deal with a potentially $5 billion budget shortfall.

    Only a few minutes before, South Florida lobbyist Ron Book passionately defended a $4 million sales-tax break for yacht owners who temporarily put in at Florida marinas for repairs.

    Not much of it made sense to Hennen, who drove all night with her two young sons, one of them car sick. The PTO member who racked up 600 hours of volunteer time last year matter-of-factly described a school district that is laying off nurses, dimming hall lights and silencing a high school band just to scrape by.

    “I’m finding it incredible. Obviously, these people have a lot of money to be spending money on these kinds of things,” Hennen said of the previous speakers. “I’m here to say please help our schools, please help our economy.”

    Hennen was immediately mobbed by reporters as lobbyists quickly filed out of the room.

    She marveled at the state tax policy that forgives more revenue than it collects.

    “We need to be thinking outside of the box to look for new revenue,” she said. “I mean, if you’re going to spend $1,000 to get on a charter boat, what the heck is (another) $60.”

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

    No Paycheck Pain for Top State Officials

    From the St. Pete Times.  Isn’t it interesting that over 26,000 state employees have their health care premiums completely paid by the taxpayers?  And here I thought Republicans were all about running government like a business?  How many private companies pay such a high percentage of their employees healthcare premiums?

    As mass layoffs claim Floridians’ jobs and health care, state lawmakers aren’t planning to cut their free health insurance premiums or the salaries of more than 1,100 state workers who earn more than $100,000 a year.

    Gov. Charlie Crist’s budget plan proposes to increase by $13.1 million the amount taxpayers pay to subsidize state worker insurance. About 26,111 top-level employees — including those in Crist’s office, the entire Legislature and its staff — have their premiums completely paid by taxpayers.

    Crist’s budget doesn’t increase state worker salaries. But he doesn’t cut wages either, unlike many private employers facing the economic downturn.

    About 1,190 full-time state employees will keep earning a salary of more than $100,000, according to data from the Department of Management Services. The figures don’t include the Legislature, universities or community colleges, which all report their salaries through different data systems.

    The Department of Administrative Hearings, which hears challenges to state agency actions, has the highest proportion of top-paid employees, with 17 percent earning about $100,000 or more.

    Crist’s office and the Department of Citrus tied for second, with 11 percent of employees earning more than $100,000.

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

    Duval Schools: Let’s push for fat, uncreative kids

    Duval’s public schools are reacting to the growing budget crisis by proposing slashing physical education and art classes. From today’s Times-Union:

    Drastically reducing the number of arts teachers, freezing salaries and restructuring health care benefits are part of a $133 million list of cuts that Duval County Public Schools could make in the next fiscal year.

    The district said last month it expects a budget shortfall of more than $98 million because of increased costs, less money from the state and having to make up for the $57 million it spent from its reserves in previous years.

    The district projects its shortfall could balloon to $139 million if the state pushes forward with a class-size reduction initiative that was put on hold last year because of budget woes.

    Let’s just make a concerted effort to increase the childhood obesity rate and educate children without any sense of creativity. That’s how we can build a world-class education system!

    Filed under: Jacksonville, , , , , , ,

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