Monday, November 24, 2008

Meanwhile, Back at the (Florida) Ranch

It has been nearly three weeks now since the election. Three weeks of basking in the glow of victory and change! Three weeks of analyzing results; discussing various Cabinet and White House staff selections, and just otherwise reveling in the thrill of victory.

However, reality has a really nasty habit of rearing its ugly head. On Friday we learned
The state's barebones budget now has a $2.1 billion hole, state economists said in a Friday forecast that all but guarantees Gov. Charlie Crist will call a special legislative session to manage the deficit and consider what was once a non-starter: tax increases.
Others, such as state CFO Alex Sink and the Florida Education Association have already called for a special session to deal with the projected budget deficit. The smart money had been on a special session in January, but on Friday
Crist laughed and said ''no'' when asked if he'll delay the call for a special session due to his Dec. 12 wedding.
Predictably, Democrats are lining up against more cuts to education and social services. Republicans are eyeing more raids on trust funds and, if they have to, raising "sin" taxes on cigarettes and possibly gambling.

We are in this predicament because the state's economy has severely tanked. We currently have six times the traditional number of unsold homes on the market (300,000 vs. 50,000) and also on Friday we learned that the state's unemployment rate hit a 15 year high of 7%.

Perhaps a special session can provide an opportunity to look at a third alternative to raising taxes or cutting spending to help fill the budget hole. There is another way to raise revenue besides raising taxes, and that is to stimulate economic activity to increase tax revenue. Gov. Crist has already taken a shot at this with his "Accelerate Florida" program,
directing all state agencies to speed up billions of dollars in approved construction and capital outlay projects
Meanwhile, the buzz is getting stronger and stronger that the Obama administration will be pushing for an economic stimulus package as large as $700 billion,
addressing neglected public infrastructure projects like roads and schools, and creating “green jobs” through business incentives for energy alternatives and environmentally friendly technologies.
One project in Florida that fits that description to a "T" is the Central Florida Commuter Rail Project. This project is all teed up and ready to go. It just got hung up in the Legislature last year over that pesky liability problem. Maybe that is something else the legislators could take a look at resolving while they are in special session looking at their budget woes?

Federal stimulus package or no, this is a project that would definitely stimulate the Florida economy. And solving the liability issue now will unlock the commuter rail puzzle for all the other regions of Florida.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Federal stimulus package or no, this is a project that would definitely stimulate the Florida economy.

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