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Call a Special Session.

Nov 21, 2008

By Dan


Florida's Revenue Estimating conference is meeting today and all indexes make it clear that Florida's economy is going from bad to really bad. A freefalling national economy and global credit crisis has meant Florida's economic woes are worsening and our budget shortfall continues to expand. This time our forecasters announced that this year's budget is short yet another billion or so dollars bringing this year's total shortfall to between $2 - 3 billion. In addition to bad budget news, Florida's unemployment rate was released today and it increased to 7 %, the highest jobless rate in 15 years. Florida has been losing jobs faster than any other state, and has the second highest number of mortgage foreclosures in the nation. In fact, the state's economist said Florida has the worst budget crisis in the nation.

This new bad news makes the case for why the Florida Legislature needs to meet in Special Session. In rough waters, we can't expect government to run on auto-pilot. Remember, the billions that must be cut from this budget, is in addition to the more than $5 billion we cut last year. Although the legislature gave the Governor the power to dip in to reserves and trust funds to make up some of the shortfall, there are huge implications in such transfers. Some of those trust funds are already invested and others are inappropriately swept to make up for deficits. Additionally, trust fund money doesn't necessarily reappear each year which means that raiding trust funds to cover shortfalls this year would leave us with an even bigger hole to fill when we meet in March to craft next year's budget.

The Governor already ordered a 4% across-the-board holdback for all agencies earlier this year to make up a portion of the lost revenue. I was concerned with that decision because a holdback is, essentially, a cut, and across-the-board cuts by definition don't allow us to prioritize where reductions can be best absorbed. I think if cuts need to be made, the legislature needs to engage the issue directly and in public, and make sure we are protecting priorities.

So now that the shortfall continues to grow, and economic conditions worsen we need to return to the Capitol and get to work. If billions are going to be cut in services (mostly education and health care), than our constituents have a right to know we were involved in those decisions and observe how the decisions are made. Further, a Special Session will allow the legislature to examine other, related issues that impact Florida's economy and really can't wait. For instance, Florida has one of the very worst unemployment compensation systems in the nation and we owe it to our residents to examine whether we should review those provisions at a time when people need assistance the most. We should also examine if there exist any revenue enhancements that will help soften cuts to critical services and won't worsen Florida's economic condition.

These decisions should not be made by inertia. We need all hands on deck. Let's call a Special Session.



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Comments


Of course they should call a Special Session! These guys can't hide under the sheets any longer.



Dan, it's as if we elected Nero. Do the pols in Tally have any idea what is going on in this state? All I ever hear from "good time" Charley is that it's going to get better. I teach High School Special Education. At the end of last year our county "non renewed" about 40 teachers, two of those teachers were in the Special Education department at Sebring High School where I work. Due to the special nature of our students it has always been understood that a class size of 12 to 15 is about as large that is effective. I now have one class of 20 and my neighbor who teacher ESE math has several classes of 20 or more. Now were being told by our superintendant to expect another cut of up to 50 teachers next year along with a 2% pay cut. Instead of holding eduation harmless as the Governor promised it seems that it is right in the crosshairs (which I suspect is the goal of the GOP). I am active in our local union and we know that there is a very difficult year ahead, but when your superintendant is an accountant with zero education experience the numbers seem stacked against us. I know you are a tireless fighter for the children of our state, keep up the fight.



You are on point with the need for a Special Session. Too many Floridians are losing their jobs and feeling disconnected and hopeless.



Every week there seems to be millions of lotto money available. What about reevaluating the status of using lotto money to better support public education?

Rikki



we can't cut our way to responsible government, we are cutting our way to disaster and we could never cut enough to satisfy some. The tax system need to be addressed and isn't it about how we spend it...



A colleague & I, both members of St Johns Co DEC, had a letter in the St Augustine Record proposing revision of the statute re the FL Taxation & Budget Reform Commission. To what fax # may we send it?




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