March 6, 2009

"Cut the c***, governor, and tell us what you'll support"

I'm reading between the lines on this report of a Florida legislative committee hearing from yesterday, but I think the reported interaction between (majority) committee members and the governor's representative is an indication that my guess a few days ago was correct: Florida's state senate leaders are almost to the point of saying out loud how fed up they are with political games.

Next Friday, naf eht stih tihs eht with the March revenue estimating conference, when the state's economists will reveal the state's equivalent of the Fed beige book: we're in deep trouble still, deeper than the assumptions built into the governor's budget proposal. As I've said, Governor Crist is the second most disciplined politician I've seen in my life, but it's one thing to strategize over one of your campaign promises and it's another thing to put the entire state budget at risk for something... I'm not sure what, but something. And while I disagree with state lawmakers who want to refuse federal recovery funds, I understand their not wanting to stick their necks out for unpopular tax increases or long-term commitments if the governor's going to claim that the state can increase education funding with no tax increases. This is a rosy budget proposal that Salvador Dali could write. 

In the least painful of all possible worlds, the state would accept federal assistance, streamline sales-tax collection to make it enforceable with online sales, eliminate egregious sales-tax exemptions, raise tuition 5% and allow universities to raise tuition 10% more as long as large chunks go to financial aid, raise the state sales tax one penny for three years, and raise the cigarette tax to $1.50 or $2 a pack. What is easiest politically are the elimination of a few hundred million dollars of sales-tax exemptions, the tuition hikes, and a cigarette tax of $1 a pack, possibly the streamlined sales-tax collections. But that's not going to be enough to do what the state needs over the next year and make schools, colleges, and universities a priority. I hope the legislature does more than what it's signaling now is likely. As with the recovery package, half a loaf is better than none, but it's my job as a citizen to point out that we really need the whole loaf.

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Tags: budget, Charlie Crist
Posted in Education policy on March 6, 2009 12:24 AM |