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Florida issues

Writer Carl Hiaasen on the collapse of Florida’s economy

Carl Hiaasen, Florida resident, author and columnist for the Miami Herald has written several great articles regarding Florida politics and our economy.

Carl Hiassen Miami Herald column

I’ve often been outspoken about the pace of development lacking a blueprint and controls. Now we’re stuck with reduced green land which is increasing our heat index, has ruined our animal habitats, and we have plenty of abandoned homes. Florida has extended it reputation for scams on an unprecedented scale, and as Carl reveals, with 10,000 plus criminals involved in the mortgage industry, is it really any surprise?

What are we going to do to tighten controls so that this doesn’t happen again?

What do we have without people moving in to chug our economy? Many states are pulling for biotech dollars, including Florida. It’s time to start using what’s naturally available in our environment, including sun power, to create a new economy, an economy that can create local jobs and produce products that are desired by other states.

Managing Florida’s budget in 2009-10

Should we increase taxes? This is the question most fought about when considering legislative ideas for our next budget. Here’s a few thoughts on taxes and service fees ranging from raising Florida state college tuitions to the so called sin taxes.

INCREASE REVENUES
Increase Florida’s cigarette tax
We don’t need the lowest rates in the nation and surely there is some compromise that would enable taxes to be raised without everyone driving to Georgia to get cheaper cigarettes. The reality is, the largest populations are too far from our border to waste time and fuel to drive to Ga for cigarettes. The talk has all been about $1 being too much. Ok, so how about $0.50? Surely there must be some acceptable number.


INTERNET TAX

This is really a federal initiative, but our state needs to get behind it.
A tax free Internet was originally approved in order to get it moving. Well now it’s a huge retail force and it no longer makes sense. It’s also not practical to have businesses collect sales tax at all the different rates that exist out there. It would put too many small businesses out of business. I propose a national internet sales tax. Here’s how it works:
– You collect and pay state sales tax just as you do now.
– If you collect and pay for all states, you continue with that.
– If you are currently exempt from collecting sales tax other than your home state, you will now collect sales tax in the amount of 3% for everywhere except your home state. That money will be sent to the Federal government and pooled for redistribution by some formula. In order for this to work, it has to be simple. There can be no demand for state by state reporting or it’s too much of a burden on small businesses. This process should be implemented using the EFTPS system.

REDUCE SPENDING
Eliminate Lt. Governor position. Savings $1.5 million annually
The Lt. Governor position cost taxpayers over $1.5 million when salary, expenses, support staff, state trooper assistance and such are all added up. The position exists so that someone can step in if something were to happen to the governor. If the Lt. Governor job description included spending a substantial portion of his or her time in the trenches meeting with constituents to discuss issues, not participate in ceremonial functions; met regularly with governing bodies and such, it might make sense. But the job is largely ceremonial. I contend that we have state legislators who are in a better position to ‘step into’ the job than the Lt. Governor. Does it make financial sense to keep this fluff job? I propose each governor can designate a member of the state house or senate at the beginning of the term to succeed in the case of emergency. That person would hold office until the next general election. If you don’t like that, I’m sure there are other ideas that are close enough this could be worked out.

ELIMINATE WASTEFUL TECHNOLOGY SPENDING- SAVINGS Over $10,000,000 annually.
Florida pays for computers, blackberries and other hardware over and over again simply because it is ‘lost’. This has got to stop. Broward County alone has a multi-million dollar ‘losses’ whether through theft, poor tracking, or improper distribution of tech products.

CHANGE TEXTBOOK REPLACEMENT POLICIES- SAVINGS- OVER $50,000,000
Do schools need new books for every class, every year? There are several problems here.
– Some books are never used because there were not enough students for them. Schools order enough for the entire incoming class, whether they need them or not.
– Schools get books that contain never used interactive materials. This problem is largely being driven by book manufacturers who found a way to increase profits with ‘enhanced’ books.
– Instead of using the same textbook year after year, a ‘revised’ textbook is released and ordered. Typically there is little change from prior textbooks but it significantly increases student books costs particularly in college.

REDUCE PORK
It’s not just the federal level. Plenty of pet projects come up at the state level that are ‘nice’ but not necessary. Get rid of them. Would you rather have new lights on Las Olas or higher teacher pay?

Revise Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program
This is necessary for the long term health of the program. Beginning with the class of 2014, students will have to meet a specific standard of excellence to be determined. This should be grades and SAT based. Rather than setting income requirements, consider putting an option on the application to ‘donate’ their scholarship to a needy student who meets the same academic requirements. This money would be pooled to help needy students with housing, book purchases and other needs not normally covered under bright futures.

Revise the Florida property tax system
I’ve written on this before. Save our Homes is great if you’ve lived here, but the overall program has created a hugely unfair tax system. One day we need to bite the bullet and revamp the entire system. Painful? Yes. Necessary? Yes.