Bottom line recommendations from The LeRoy Collins Institute:
Modify Class Size Amendment
Redress under-funding of higher education
Reform Bright Futures
Assess infrastructure needs
Conduct comprehensive examination of Medicaid
Join interstate compact on internet sales
Add new construction concurrently on tax rolls
Access adequacy of impact fees
The LeRoy Collins Institute expects a coming increase in Medicaid enrollment and calls it the “800 pound gorilla” as we make tough fiscal choices. From the recently updated report â€œTough Choices: Shaping Floridaâ€™s Future”
Medicaid currently accounts for more than 25% of Floridaâ€™s budget, insuring a quarter of Floridaâ€™s children and funding 63% of the stateâ€™s nursing home care. As we noted in Tough Choices: Update 2008, cuts in Medicaid spending not only leave many residents of Florida with costly, uncovered medical expenses but they also leave available matching federal money on the table. Health care research shows that when providers are financially strapped, quality of care for serious conditions gets worse.
In our original Tough Choices recommendations in 2005 we urged a careful assessment of Medicaid as a prerequisite for both making cuts and improving the effectiveness of the massive safety-net program. Instead, the state has continued to cut services here and there without a careful assessment of their impacts and without a full understanding of the intricacies and myriad components of the Medicaid system. We continue to urge a careful assessment of Medicaid, including prioritization of services and recipients, prior to additional incremental reductions.
“I think we need to bring education funding back up. If weâ€™re going to be competitive economically, we have to have a world class education system. We had a very conservative governor who thought education was important and thought that a 72 billion dollar education budget was necessary for this state. Now weâ€™ve cut down to the low 60â€™s. Weâ€™ve cut too low and we must bring it back.” –State Senator Thad Altman (R- Melbourne)
On seeking a higher education: “Because if you think in your own families, your own lives, who was the first person in your family, the very first, who decided they would seek higher education? Maybe it was you, maybe it will be your children, maybe it was your father or your grandfather or mother or grandmother. But the moment that Rubicon was crossed, the moment that someone in your family decided they were going to advance themselves to a different level, your entire family changed, forever. And guess what? So did your community, when it happens in multiples and so did your city.and so did your county and your state and your nation.” –State Senator Dan Gelber (D- Miami Beach)
Did you miss Florida’s Fiscal Storm? Find a video online at Florida TaxWatch
“Itâ€™s bad for new home construction, itâ€™s bad for first time home buyers, itâ€™s bad for seniors if they want to step down into a retirement home. Itâ€™s bad, itâ€™s grossly unfair, itâ€™s un-American and we must fix it. I know there are many schools of thought. I happen to feel that weâ€™re not a high tax state. Our country, from the time of the Boston Tea Party, has been founded on fairness in our tax system. And weâ€™ve gotten away from that.” –State Senator Thad Altman (R- Melbourne)
“Youâ€™ve got to get people back into government. TaxWatch points out that one thing Save Our Homes has done is take people out of local government so they donâ€™t care. If people donâ€™t care about what theyâ€™re spending through their elected officials, is it the job of 160 legislators, all but two of which donâ€™t come from that community.” –State Senator Dan Gelber (D- Miami Beach)
The Sunshine State was semi-featured in one of the more touching moments from President Obama’s speech tonight:
I think of Leonard Abess, a bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a 60 million dollar bonus and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him plus another 72 who used to work for him.
He didn’t tell anyone.
When the local newspaper found out, he simply said “I’ve known some of these people since I was seven years old. It didn’t feel right getting the money myself.”
HERE is that story, folks.
“The superhomestead was a good fix â€“ it was structural, it was sound, but we didnâ€™t go that easy route.” –Dominic Calabro, President and CEO FloridaTaxWatch
“There were some efforts 2 years ago in session is to try to address [the property tax problem]. And one way we tried to skin that cat – and I think it was a valid one â€“ is what we called the super homestead exemption where we would give a much larger exemption to homeowners on a percentage basis, but we would have to go to a constitutional amendment to make that happen. The trade off was we would have to give up Save Our Homes. [The Superhomestead amendment] was thrown off of the ballot on a technicality, we could have fixed the technicality, but many thought it would fail because of the polling. I think that what we need to do is we need to do the right thing, we need have the best possible fix to our property tax problem and then go to the people, and not have the polls decide what direction weâ€™re going to go. I think that was a big mistake. I have a lot of trust in the wisdom of the Florida voter. I think if we come up with a good plan and get the word out .” –State Senator Thad Altman (R- Melbourne)
What weâ€™re facing here is running the ship of state through rough waters of a seismic economic and fiscal storm. Itâ€™s not just a cyclical thing… [it] isnâ€™t merely just a matter of do we have enough revenue, are we spending too much or too little? Those are the superficial challenges weâ€™re facing. Weâ€™re facing tectonic challenges in our plates, the undergirding of the basic fabric of our economy and some would say our political system. So weâ€™re kind of guiding this in a far different set of circumstances, many of which are far beyond our control. –Dominic Calabro, President and CEO FloridaTaxWatch
“The bottom line is that Florida has to take this time to make comprehensive changes, not Band-Aids and not the federal stimulus, which is going… to have a lot of strings. Itâ€™s not going to be free money from heaven.” –Dr. Carol Weissert, Director FSU’s LeRoy Collins Institute
â€œI think itâ€™s critical that we donâ€™t allow the stimulus package to become a means of avoiding the problem that we have in this state… We need to address our revenue problems and if we do that we can make that stimulus package more beneficial and actually make it a true stimulus package, and not one thatâ€™s going to serve as a Band-Aid to fix our revenue shortfalls. The money is necessary, but Iâ€™m not going to let that get my eye off the ball in fixing our revenue problems.â€ –State Senator Thad Altman (R- Melbourne)
“You have to be very careful not to use economic stimulus money to balance the budget as itâ€™s not going to be there in a couple years. Itâ€™s good for an emergency, but you have to be very careful that you donâ€™t add back things youâ€™ve cut or start new programs you canâ€™t sustain in the future.” — Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch
“Iâ€™m concerned that we may be overstating what weâ€™ll get. There are a lot of matching [funds], hold harmless, and some states arenâ€™t going to use some of the money because theyâ€™re afraid theyâ€™ll have something they will need to keep funding. I study federalism, and giving money to the states without strings is very rare. My guess is weâ€™ll get some of that but weâ€™re going to see a lot of strings.” –Dr. Carol Weissert, Director FSU’s LeRoy Collins Institute
Over the next few days, we’ll be pulling some themes out of last night’s excellent discussion “Florida’s Fiscal Storm” for those of you who couldn’t make it. A first point of agreement across the aisle is that we need to resist the temptation to pick a quick fix…
â€œWhile I think we have to worry about tomorrow, I think literally the legislature is worried about Wednesday. And there is more to tomorrow than just Wednesday. There is a lot more that we need to be thinking about. One gripe with the Florida legislature and with policy in Florida is that nobody has really taken the long view of Florida and of where our state is.” –State Senator Dan Gelber (D- Miami Beach)
“Legislators by nature donâ€™t think long-term. Theyâ€™re looking at the next election. Term-limited legislatures particularly have trouble looking long-term. Long-term issues have to be looked at by us. That is you.” –Dr. Carol Weissert, Director FSU’s LeRoy Collins Institute
“I hope that the revenue shortfalls that weâ€™re facing right now can be a catalyst to have Florida not only take a look at our tax problems but also to take action to fix them permanently.” –State Senator Thad Altman (R- Melbourne)
â€œA crisis is a terrible thing to waste…itâ€™s a great opportunity to realign and bring some common sense to how we spend money.” –Dominic Calabro, President and CEO FloridaTaxWatch
In researching our next topic, I found an interesting article on Florida’s recent dispute on science standards. Liam Julian of the Thomas Fordham Foundation writes in The St. Petersburg Times:
“Lost in all this was the difference between faith and science. Each can illumine the human experience, and they interact best when separated and respected. Neither side in Florida’s evolution disagreement realized this, and it’s therefore likely that the evolution controversy will continue…â€¨
Why try to pass off intelligent design as science, anyway? A better idea is to simply allow intelligent design and its ilk to remain philosophical ideas and allow evolution to remain a scientific one. â€¨â€¨
This works both ways. Those who support Florida’s revised science standards should be careful to keep evolution in its realm – the scientific – and not heap upon it purposes for which it is unsuited. â€¨â€¨Richard Dawkins, Oxford scientist and author of The God Delusion, makes the mistake of using evolution as a weapon against faith. He has written that, because of Darwin, religion “is now completely superseded by science.” â€¨â€¨
His claim would shock many, including Pope Benedict XVI, who has said that “there is much scientific proof in the theory of evolution” but who also warns against converting evolution into “a universal theory concerning all reality.” Pope John Paul II also believed that science and faith do best when they seek together to understand each other’s competencies and limitations.”â€¨