Monday, December 3, 2007

Legislative Update

Let's hope our legislators were too busy enjoying the holiday to cook up any new schemes for legislative session:


TCPalm - State Senator Mike Fasano: Legislature's proposal offers Floridians long-needed tax relief

Erm, the republican sales pitch on the property tax amendment has begun.

TCPalm - S. Curt Kiser: In the long term, Florida needs tax reform more than tax relief

Florida’s lawmakers are once again scrambling to shore up the state budget to deal with a slumping economy. It’s human nature to deal with the here-and-now. But Florida needs a plan for the long haul, not just the next election cycle.

The property-tax break the Legislature proposed for the statewide ballot won’t change Florida’s systemic fiscal problems. We need tax reform, not just tax relief.

Florida’s current economic troubles shouldn’t come as a real surprise. Two years ago, the nonpartisan LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University released an important economic study, "Tough Choices: Shaping Florida’s Future," warning that the real estate boom would end and leave a budget hole. Some leaders ignored it, because Florida was swimming in revenue. Now the predictions have come true.

Ocala Star-Banner - Updating our archaic tax system

The Florida Legislature has tried seemingly everything to deal with the state's fiscal crisis, which centers on a $1.1 billion shortfall that seems to be growing by the day: they've drained trust funds, proposed auctioning off toll roads, raised tuition fees while cutting education spending, shaved funding for health care programs, foisted much of the burden onto local government, forced departments to cut jobs or simply agreed not to fill state job vacancies.

Well, almost everything.
What they haven't done is the obvious, especially for a state that depends so heavily on a sales tax as a key source of revenue - boost sales tax revenues.

The idea is to review items currently exempt from sales tax to see if those exemptions still make sense and applying the state sales tax to Internet transactions. Nothing new. I did find this bit amusing:

Now, recall leaders in Tallahassee did kick around the idea of sales tax reform earlier this year. House Speaker Marco Rubio pushed for a steep hike in the sales tax in order to eradicate property taxes, a bit of unrealistic political pandering that died, thankfully, when people realized it lightened the fiscal load of the wealthy by refitting it onto the backs of the poor and the working class.

Less amusing was this Pensacola News Journal article: Tax revolt could push Rubio to a higher office.

Hey, I'm all for making the tax system more fair in the state, but lets not reward the guy who came up with the looniest and most irresponsible plan just because you like the fact that he's screaming the loudest on the issue.

Sun-Sentinel - ... Senator Steve Geller answers questions about property taxes.

Department of Citrus

Lakeland Ledger - Report Critical of Citrus Department

Florida citrus growers could save up to $844,350 in their tax money by eliminating the Lakeland-based Florida Department of Citrus and integrating its functions into the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Tallahassee.

Or they could save $61.8 million - the department's current annual budget - by eliminating the citrus agency and its programs entirely.

Those are two of the six options outlined in a Nov. 16 report from the Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, which was assigned the task of reviewing the Citrus Department and recommending whether it should continue or face sunset.

The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA)is assigned the task of performing a "Sunset Review" to determine whether or not a state agency needs to continue to exist. OPPAGA reports to the Joint Sunset Committee of the Florida Legislature.

Agencies currently under review are: Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Department of Citrus, Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and Water Management Districts. You can find copies of OPPAGA's interim reports on the sunset reviews page of their website.

Legislative Delegations

December 4th

St. Lucie County Legislative Delegation: Meeting, public hearing. IRCC Kight Center for Emerging Techologies, 3209 Virginia Ave., Fort Pierce 9 a.m.-4 p.m., (561) 279-1 633.

Polk County Legislative Delegation: Legislators will be meeting with the County Commission at 10 a.m. on Dec. 4 in the commission chambers as part of an all-day series of meetings with constituents in preparation for the 2008 legislative session.

December 5th

Okeechobee County Legislative Delegation: for more information please contact Chairperson: Senator J. D. Alexander, 122 East Tillman Ave., Suite 1
Lake Wales, FL 33853, Telephone: (863) 679-4411, Fax: (863) 679-4413

Seminole County Legislative Delegation: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday in County Commission chambers at 1101 E. First St., Sanford. The delegation will hear from the public on matters of statewide concern and will talk about local bills that were drafted and filed with Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, by last month.

To find out about meetings of your local legislative delegation please contact them, you can download: Contact information for all County Legislative Delegations