Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

RPOF Steps In It

Well, the Republican Party of Florida certainly stepped in a pile of dookie today.  It seems the RPOF released an attack on “Banker” Alex Sink alleging that she participated in predatory lending practices that led to the crisis with subprime mortgages.  The chair of the RPOF, Jim Greer, called on Sink to “release all information relating to her involvement with Barnett Bank (among others) subprime predatory lending practices.”  The only problem is, Sink never worked at Barnett Bank…..but Jeff Atwater, Senate President and the Republican candidate running to replace Alex Sink as CFO, did.  Read more about it here.  

You just can’t make up stories as good as this one.


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

Atwater Doing Hip-Hop, While Cretul Does Hokey Pokey

More signs are emerging that the Legislature may not reach agreement on a budget during the regular Session.  From the St. Pete Times:

In the word-picture world of Tallahassee, the House speaker and Senate president are called “dance partners.”

But this is no Arthur Murray studio. This is real life, where people can lose jobs and where sick kids and the elderly can be denied critical services waiting for the Legislature to act.

The speaker and Senate president must strive for common solutions, even if their visions of the world are totally different.

That’s not easy to do, as we’re about to see.

While Senate President Jeff Atwater is doing the hip-hop, his dance partner, House Speaker Larry Cretul, is doing the hokey pokey at the other end of the hall.

The state budget is in tatters, and unemployment keeps going up. The Legislature has only a little time to forge a path out of the wilderness.

Atwater acts like a man on a mission. Cretul is counting down the days till adjournment.

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Business Leaders and Republicans onboard with Tax Review

When it became apparent that Florida was facing a serious budget deficit, Democrats began calling for a look at revenue raising ideas, such as boosting cigarette taxes and reviewing Florida’s numerous sales tax exemptions.  They were rebuffed by Charlie Crist in his outline for Special Session, and the House and Senate leadership in their call for Special Session.  Several Democrats tried to raise the issues during the session by introducing a couple of bills during Special Session.  But the bills were outside the subject matter, and these legislators couldn’t get the 3/4 vote necessary for the bills to be heard.  With budget cuts from the Special Session reverbrating throughout the State, Florida’s revenues at a low, and a huge projected budget shortfall facing legislators during the upcoming regular session, Republicans and business leaders have now changed their tune.

This from the St. Pete Times:

Florida’s threadbare state budget, now cut by more than $8-billion since July 2007, has Republican legislators talking about what until now was reviled as heresy: taxes.

On the agenda for the March regular session is a discussion of a cigarette tax increase of between 50 cents and $1, taxing all Internet sales in Florida, eliminating sales tax exemptions and closing tax loopholes.

There is no agreement on whether to impose any of these taxes. But tax-averse legislators — who resisted talk of taxes for nearly 20 years and campaigned on promises of tax cuts — have reached near-agreement on one thing: Two years of budget cuts culminating in last week’s $2.4-billion reduction have hit bone. Worse, they say, is a $3.5-billion shortfall next year that they’ll have to fill to avoid deeper cuts to education and health care.

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Special Session priorities?

Our legislators have such an interesting set of priorities considering the huge budget hole they are staring down. 

One of the first things House members did today was to vote down 70-42 (along party lines), Rep. Waldman’s bid to get his bill to increase cigarette taxes heard.  Rep. Waldman’s proposal would have raised up to $700 million.   According to the Tallahassee Democrat,

House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Delray Beach said the Democratic attempt was misguided and poorly timed in a statement he issued immediately after the vote.  “There are too many unknowns right now about an increased cigarette sales tax, such as how much it would collect and when we would start to realize the new revenue, to add this issue to the condensed agenda of the Special Session at this time,” Hasner said in the statement.

I wonder why that same logic didn’t apply to raising fines for speeders. 

As for the Senate, one of the first thing its members did today was vote on a resolution expressing their solidarity with Israel. 

Who elected these people?

Both the House and Senate refused to take a look at Florida’s current sales tax structure with it numerous exemptions during the Special Session.  However, to his credit, Senate President Jeff Atwater promised it would be a subject of the Senate’s when it begins meeting in regular session in March.  I hope he has more success in getting rid of the sales tax exemptions than one of his predecessors – former Senator (and former Senate President) John McKay.

BTW, the House approved its budget on a 73-40 vote; the Senate, 27-13. The House-Senate conference committees will work over the weekend to reconcile differences.

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

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