Wednesday, April 09, 2008


With hundreds of prison and community safety jobs on the chopping block, along with cuts aimed at thousands of catastrophically ill Floridians including transplant patients, tens of thousands of elderly and disabled dependent on the state for health care and prescription drug help, and scores of child abuse investigators, Senate Democrats on Wednesday offered a number of amendments designed to throw the state a financial lifeline.
Senate Republicans threw it back.
"I am appalled at the indifference we saw here today," said Senate Democratic Leader Steven Geller ( D-Cooper City ). "These amendments didn't raise taxes, they didn't burden property owners, and they didn't expand bureaucracy. All they did was wean some very wealthy corporations from the legislative coddling they've enjoyed for years. It's time they joined the rest of us and paid their fair share."
The Democratic lawmakers conceded that the offered measures would not have been able to avert all of the cuts Republicans are backing, but they would have blunted much of the pain, they said.
Their defeated amendments included the following:
·        The first installment of $70 million earmarked for CSX – a controversial plan to underwrite with public tax dollars the railroad's new distribution hub in Central Florida – would have been diverted back to the public. In particular, under the amendment sponsored by Senators Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) , Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) and Nan Rich (D-Weston), the money would have been earmarked as follows:
o       Excellent Teaching Program -- $9 million
o       Early Learning Coalitions -- $9.6 million
o       Children's Medical Services -- $7.5 million
o       Protective Investigators -- $6.3 million
o       Community Care for the Elderly -- $1.6 million
o       County Health Departments -- $13.4 million
o       Public Defenders -- $6.8 million
o       State Attorneys -- $15.8 million
·        An amendment by Senators Geller, Rich, Joyner and Tony Hill (D-Jacksonville) that would have closed the loophole allowing certain corporations to escape paying the real estate taxes the majority of Floridians pay when buying or selling real estate. The expected $50 million in recurring revenue would have restored to duty 664 correction officers – the equivalent of approximately two fully staffed prisons – and 294 probation officers currently targeted for layoff.
·        An amendment sponsored by Senators Geller, Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton), Rich, Joyner and Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami) closing a corporate income tax escape hatch known as "combined reporting" benefiting mostly out-of-state corporations and disadvantaging Florida-based ones. Similar measures have passed other large states such as Texas . The amendment would have raised approximately $364 million annually and been committed to:
o       Medically Needy --$152 million
o       MEDS AD -- $148 million
o       Nursing Home Rate Reimbursement -- $64 million
"A transplant patient's struggle to survive shouldn't be doomed in order to protect special interests' profiteering," said Geller. " Florida 's ability to probe child abuse cases, or assist impoverished senior citizens obtain life-saving drugs, or keep dangerous criminals behind bars or in check within our communities shouldn't be sacrificed while giant corporations continue to get a free ride.
"We offered a way to protect the people's welfare. They chose to protect corporate welfare."
Michelle DeMarco
Press Secretary
Florida Senate Democratic Office

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