Short Update on the Legislative Session
Apr 8, 2009
I wanted to take a brief second and give you a short update on what is going on here in Tallahassee.
The legislative session has reached its mid-point and the dominating issue continues to be the economy and its impact on Florida’s budget. There seems to be general agreement – after an initial phase of chest thumping – that the federal stimulus money will be embraced and not rejected. (In fact, the chant quickly went from “we don’t want your money” to we “want more of your money.”) The House still seems to be answering the budget challenges with sound bites (“we’ll just have to tighten our belts”); my Senate colleagues, at least, seem more genuinely aware of the devastating impact of budget cuts and have at least been looking for additional revenue. Some of my bills that eliminate corporate tax loopholes have passed out of their Senate committees, even though they didn’t even get hearings or where summarily dismissed in the House over the last few years.
I totally reject the notion that keeping the education budget at current levels is “holding education harmless.” Over the last 24 months we have cut education $1.4 billion which translates to $500 per child. We spent more in 2003 than we are spending now, which means schools are being closed, teachers laid off, and significant programs are being cut and curtailed. We need to restore education funding to at least previous levels. In the short term, we can stimulate the economy by building infrastructure. But in the long term, our state's economic fate will be decided by the legislature's decision whether or not to invest in our most important commodity: our future workforce.
As always the major issues of the session will be determined in the last few weeks. So stay tuned to see the fate of the CSX deal, the clerk/judge battle, whether Indian gaming compact will be approved, whether a cigarette tax will be imposed, and whether the legislature will actually seek middle class tax equity by closing loopholes and unwise exemptions.
Most importantly, keep a close eye on Tallahassee---now more than ever!
On another note: I am doing some traveling for the campaign during weekends around session and am continuing to do service projects. Stay tuned as we will be soon announcing our plans after session. More than likely, we will be coming to a city near you soon!