Florida Legislature Preview: Draconian Cuts on the Way

Mike Bennett
State Sen. Mike Bennett says Gov. Crist's budget projections are too rosy.
TAMPA (3-1-2010) -

Two Tampa-area state lawmakers agree that painful cuts are coming in this year’s state budget, as the Legislature meets Tuesday for their annual 60-day legislative session.

Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, says lawmakers should tax internet sales, while Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, says lawmakers may roll back some fee increases.

Governor Crist's proposed spending plan is worth $69.2 billion, with increases in spending for K-12 education, state universities, and Everglades restoration.

But Republican leaders in the Legislature say Crist’s numbers are based on too-rosy economic assumptions and passing a gambling compact with the Seminole tribe.

They’re expecting a nearly $3 billion deficit.

Bennett tells WUSF's "Florida Matters" it will not be an easy job.

“We don’t want to count on nickels we haven’t received yet,” he said. “So we’re going to go with a very tight budget, and make some extremely difficult decisions.”

Fitzgerald agrees.

“I think the cuts are going to be across the board, and they will be draconian,” he said.

As far as revenue increases, Fitzgerald tells Florida Matters it's time to look on-line – even if it’s politically unpopular.

“Internet sales, we definitely should be looking at. The state of New York has figured out a new legal argument they think will enable them to impose that tax,” he said.

Last year, lawmakers didn't raise taxes, but they did increase fees for things such as car and fishing licenses. Despite the budget woes, Bennett says some of those fees should come back down.

“I think they will. A lot of us are saying, some of these fees are totally out of control,” he said.

Meanwhile, state workers are looking at another year without a cost of living raise.

But Fitzgerald said layoffs would not be a smart way to save money.

At the worst part of the recession, do you want to be laying off a bunch of people and taking money out of the economy? That makes no economic sense,” he said.

Lawmakers also are expected to take up a proposal to revise the Class Size Amendment.

The session begins Tuesday evening with the Crist’s State of the State address.

Our Florida Matters session preview comes to you Tuesday evening at 6:30.

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