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Florida Hospitals Not Taking More Haitians

January 29th, 2010 by flanews

Florida hospitals are not taking any more victims from the Haiti earthquake in an effort to free up beds. 526 people injured in Haiti have been treated in Florida. As Whitney Ray tells us, the state is worried about its ability to provide medical attention to Floridians in the event of a major disaster.

Plane loads of victims from the Haiti earthquake will have to bypass Florida to find medical assistance. The federal government put a freeze on flights from Haiti to Florida hospitals. The state asked for the freeze over concerns of hospital space.

We are trying to make sure we dont over burden Florida and I think that its important that we dont, said Governor Charlie Crist.

526 people injured in the earthquake have been treated instate. Most of them are US Citizens. Some are in the country on visitor visas and may not have a way to pay for their medical care.

The state is asking for federal money to pay for the victims that dont have insurance. But the federal dollars may not cover the total cost. The Florida Hospital Association says right now doctors and nurses are focused on care not cash.

Well see what the cost is and then well look for appropriate ways to seek funding for it, but our first priority are the folks who need care, said Bruce Rueben, the CEO of FHA.

160 victims still being treated in Florida will be allowed to stay despite concerns over thousands of football fans headed to South Florida for the SuperBowl.

I want to say about Miami, they are dealing with the ProBowl and they are dealing with the SuperBowl and they said despite that influx were going to continue taking care of these people, said DCF Secretary George Sheldon.

The victims of the quake will still receive US care; they just may have to fly an extra hour or two to get it from another state.

Florida hospital administrators want to stress that they are not over burdened at this point and are still able to treat patients as needed.

Posted in State News | 3 Comments »

Governors Budget: Too Optimistic?

January 29th, 2010 by flanews

Governor Charlie Crist is calling for a three billion dollar increase in state spending, while lawmakers are preparing to cut the budget by as much. Crist released his full budget proposal today, which includes increased spending on schools, the environment and health care. The proposal relies heavily on money from a failed gaming compact and trust fund dollars. Crist says his plan will help boost the states economy.

I think what it is, is a recognition we have got to move forward on education, that we have a recommitment to our environment and I think those two things are important to Floridas economy, said Crist.

The governors plan doesnt include layoffs, pay cuts, or benefit reductions for state workers. Legislative leaders will likely reject a bulk of the governors suggestions when they begin crafting the budget in March.

Posted in Charlie Crist, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

FPL Rate Hike

January 29th, 2010 by flanews

The states largest electric company didnt get what it wanted or what it claimed it needed. Florida Power and Light customer won the rate hike battled, official today. FPL asked the Public Service Commission for a billion dollar rate increase. Heres what they got instead.

On January 13th, the commission provide FPL with a revenue increase of 75 million and that will equal about a dollar three for the average typical FPL customer, said PSC Spokeswoman Cindy Muir.

The new rate will go into effect in March.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

The Budget Proposal

January 28th, 2010 by flanews

Plans to create thousands of jobs in Florida by pumping money into movies, tourism, and space are in the works in Tallahassee. Governor Charlie Crist is calling for 300 million dollars in state spending and incentive programs. As Whitney Ray tells us, the spending and tax breaks could create jobs if state lawmakers dont need the money for schools, roads, and hospitals.

For decades Florida has been familiar ground for Flipper and other film stars. The industry created a 29 billion dollar economic impact in 2007, employing more than a hundred thousand people.

Governor Charlie Crist is pushing 15 million dollars worth of tax incentives to attract jobs and tourist.

We get a six to one return on that investment. In addition to that we get Florida advertised all over the globe, said Crist.

The governors budget recommendations call for 32 million dollars in space spending, 15 million for public research, and 100 million to harpoon high-tech business. The Florida Chamber of Commerce says the investments would create better jobs.

Those are the type of jobs we want. They are high wage, high-tech jobs and what we want to go to the next economy, said Gabe Sheheane with the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

State lawmakers who are charged with crafting the budget are likely to take one look at the governors recommendations and start from scratch.

Senate President Jeff Atwater says Crists proposals depend too heavily on money from a failed gambling compact.

We are going to deal with the facts as we see them and the facts as we see them are we have less revenue, said Atwater.

Its unlikely all of the governors budget recommendations will survive once lawmakers begin making tough decision to fill a three billion dollar shortfall. But if they do, experts say thousands of jobs will be saved and created.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Economy, Legislature, State News, Swine Flu, Taxes, Unemployment | 2 Comments »

High Speed Rail

January 28th, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida has flirted with his speed rail for almost thirty years. Each time the dream of lightening fast ground travel has collided with the reality of cost, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the difference this time is money from the federal government.

In 1983, then-governor Bob Graham went to Japan to ride a 200 mile-an-hour train levitated by magnets.

It was like, Id say, riding in a very fast jet airplane, Graham said. Almost frictionless.

At the time, the governor even handed out tickets and the first press pass to a young reporter.

By 1989 the state was accepting high-speed rail proposals that went nowhere. Then in 1996, Fox Overland Express was given the contract. More cost studies followed. Then, during his first week in office, Jeb Bush killed the deal.

The financial structure of this deal was not viable, Bush said.

Voters objected, narrowly approving a privately funded constitutional amendment in November 2000.

But four years later, Bush led the rail repeal effort. At the time the state was being hammered by four hurricanes. Voters were worried about their homes, not trains, and voted 2 to 1 to repeal high speed rail.

Governor Charlie Crist says this time will be different.

[I am] as confident as ever, Crist said. You know, you get 1.25 billion dollars. If that wont build a train, I dont know what will.

One difference is having federal money to build the train. But finding the money to keep it running has always been the obstacle no group has been able to overcome.

Posted in Business, Charlie Crist, Economy, State Budget, State News, Transportation | No Comments »

Legislative Leaders to Table Tax

January 27th, 2010 by flanews

Legislative leaders are promising temporary relief to business owners facing an enormous tax increase. Floridas unemployment tax has gone up between 5-hundred and a thousand percent to help pay jobless claims. As Whitney Ray tells us, if the tax is delayed the state will have to continue borrowing money from the federal government to pay the jobless.

This cleaning service owes the state 22-thousand dollars in unemployment taxes. This gas station owes even more. Both businesses are seeing an 500 percent increase making it difficult to find the tax payment due March 31st.

Most of my customers have already let me know they arent going to accept any fee increases, said Business Owner Randy Marin.

Thousands of business owners are asking legislative leaders for help saying the increase could force more layoffs. Senate President Jeff Atwater got the message.

We hope to have relief for them on Governor Crist desk the first week of session, said Atwater.

The legislation would place a temporary hold on the tax increase, which was raised to help repay debt accumulated by skyrocketing unemployment.

Since August the state has borrowed more than a billion federal dollars to pay unemployment claims. Tabling the tax increase will force the state to take on more debt, which business owners will eventually have to pay back.

The business community is very well aware that there will be obligations in the future and there will be interest on the money in the future, so none of this is without complete and thorough knowledge, said House Speaker Larry Cretul.

But delaying the tax until the economy improves could help many businesses stay afloat. The state is borrowing an estimated 300 million dollars a month. The money is interest free until January of next year.

Posted in Business, Economy, State News, Taxes, Unemployment | No Comments »

State Workers Worried

January 27th, 2010 by flanews

Some state workers could lose their jobs or see pay reductions as lawmakers look to fill a three billion dollar budget hole.

There are 150-thousand state workers in Florida costing taxpayers more than seven billion dollars in salaries and benefits. Senate President Jeff Atwater says the layoffs have to be part of the budget balancing conversation this year.

I dont believe we could get through at this early stage of assessing where we will go in the budget that there will no be further reduction in state spending that could impact our work force or salaries, I think that would be a very difficult commitment to make, said Atwater

State workers beat a two percent pay cut last year and have gone without pay raises for the past four years.

Posted in Legislature, State Budget, State News, Unemployment | No Comments »

McCollum 41, Sink 31

January 27th, 2010 by flanews

New poll numbers show Attorney General Bill McCollum leading his democratic rival for governor by double digits.

McCollums ahead of Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, 41 to 31 percent, according to a Quinnipiac poll released today. Pollster Peter Brown says besides name recognition, Sink is also being hurt by the countrys growing distaste for Democrats.

Well obviously this has not been a good few months for Democrats around the country. Probably has worn off a bit on her but we have a long way to go and voters don’t really know much about either gubernatorial candidate. It’s certainly better to be ahead by double digits than behind by double digits but we still have a long way to go in that race, said Brown.

The poll also shows McCollum crushing his primary opponent, State Senator Paula Dockery 44 to 6 percent.

Posted in McCollum, Politics, Sink, State News | No Comments »

Rubio Leads Senate Race

January 26th, 2010 by flanews

In just eight months Former House Speaker Marco Rubio has managed to erase a 30 point lead to inch ahead of one of the most popular politicians in Florida history. The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows Rubio leading Governor Charlie Crist in the race for the US Senate, 47 to 44. Even though the lead falls within the margin of error, as Whitney Ray tells us, Rubio has the momentum.

Last June Governor Charlie Crist was considered a shoo-in for US Senate; his challenger, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, a speed bump at best. But the tables have turned.

Crists 30 point lead has evaporated. The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows Rubio up three points among Republicans.

On the question about who is the most consistency conservative Mr. Rubio scores double digits better, said Quinnipiac Pollster Peter Brown.

Crists appearance with President Barack Obama last February, a nationwide war on incumbents and the sinking economy are partially to blame for the turnaround.

The poll shows Crists job approval rate falling as unemployment increases.
In a news conference Tuesday Crist pointed to the economy for his recent misfortune, then renewed his commitment to Florida.

Im going to govern and my first responsibility is to be the governor of the state of Florida and to work hard for the people every single day, said Crist.

A campaign manager for Rubio said the former speaker was too busy to talk on camera about his lead in the poll, but added the news is encouraging.

Despite losing the lead in the poll, Crist is still dominating the fundraising battle. Crist outraised Rubio in fourth quarter of 2009 and has 7.5 million dollars to spend getting his message to voters.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Politics, State News | No Comments »

Pens, Pencils and Paperclips Cost Taxpayers Millions

January 26th, 2010 by flanews

The state is wasting millions of dollars ordering new office supplies instead of sharing among agencies.

The state spends 47 million dollars a year on paper clips, pens, notepads and other supplies. Floridas Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink says the state could save 14 million dollars by pooling surplus supplies. Sink saved 200-thousand dollars in her office alone and found they had 500 pounds of paperclips in her office.

One of my friends here in Tallahassee told me he got an email, saying can you believe shes making us count paperclips. You darn right Im making you count paper clips. And when I told a couple of my business friends that we were counting paperclips in my department amazingly enough just last week two large fortune 1000 companies said we count paper clips too, said Sink.

Sink is creating the CFO Depot, a website with a list of extra supplies available to state workers.

Posted in Sink, State Budget, State News, Taxes | No Comments »

RIP: Florida Economy

January 26th, 2010 by flanews

Floridas largest business lobby is making funeral arrangements for Floridas economy.

Associated Industries of Florida says stricter water restrictions set to go into effect in October will kill business and hurt families. AWI claims the new regulations will cost households and average of 62 dollars more a month on their water bills. The funeral will be held one day before President Barack Obamas Tampa Visit. Funeral organizer Barney Bishop hopes the message reaches the President.

We want him to understand that while hes talking about creating jobs, his own federal EPA and Carol Brown are right there in the White House Purposely screwing Floridas Economy by imposing unscientific regulations as a result of the lawsuit where the EPA capitulated with the plaintiffs to take Florida down this path of increasing our water rates, said Bishop.

The new regulations are meant to improve the water quality and cut down on toxins.

Posted in Economy, State News | No Comments »

Crist Might Attend Presidential Visit

January 26th, 2010 by flanews

Governor Charlie Crist says if he can find time in his schedule he will visit President Barack Obama in Tampa Thursday.

Last February Crist appeared on state with the President to rally support for an economic stimulus package. The move has hurt Crist in his race against Marco Rubio for US Senate. Crist says if his meeting with the University Systems Board of Governors wraps up quickly hell attend the Presidents event.

Currently I have plans to be in Tampa on Thursday for the Board of Governors, we are going to announce the new membership. If we can work it out logistically, Ill be with him, said Crist.

The last time Mr. Obama was in Florida, Crist said he didnt even know the president was visiting.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Politics, State News | No Comments »

Fair Districts Battle Ahead

January 25th, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida lawmakers have already spent almost 3 hundred thousand dollars on the effort to redraw the states legislative and congressional districts, and the redrawing wont take place for another two years. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, two new proposals to make the process more fair could result in millions more being spent.

More than a million and a half signed petitions later, Florida voters will see two new ideas on the November ballot. Both require lawmakers to draw political boundaries without regard to who is in power. One applies to congress, the other to state legislature.

Bob Milligan says what we have now doesnt pass the common sense test.

All you need to do is flash up a map of the districts in Florida and any objective citizen would look at it and say its crazy,” Gen. Bob Milligan with Fair Districts Florida said.

The two ballot initiatives were certified late Friday. Big business groups are already talking about a law suit to kick them off the ballot.

You have a confluence of groups who are left-wing for whom the entire purpose of this is to take the power away from the establishment here in Tallahassee,” Barney Bishop with Associated Industries of Florida, said.

While it is those who are in power now, mostly Republicans, but some Democrats, who are fighting the change, it is ironic that two Republicans are leading the charge.

Party affiliation aside, Milligan, who served as state treasurer for eight years says whos in control should not matter.

The established standards–you are trying to have a fairly large box for people to wander around in–but the standards are designed to represent the people and not the interest of the party that is in power,” Milligan said.

If the amendments survive a legal attack, they will face a multi-million dollar television assault this fall.

If the proposed amendments make it to the 2010 theyll need 60 percent voter approval to become law.

Posted in Elections, Legislature, Politics, State News, Voting | No Comments »

Education Overhaul

January 25th, 2010 by flanews

The governor is asking lawmakers to approve more education spending to help jump start plans to overhaul the states school system. The proposed changes range from paying teachers based on their students test scores to easing class size requirements. As Whitney Ray tells us, the changes wont come easy.

A horse named Tuffy and a popular childrens book character greeted students at the state capitol Monday, encouraging them to read. Good reading skills will be vital for these students eyeing esteemed careers, but before these kids make the jump from dreamer to doer theyll have to graduate, a task that may soon become harder in Florida.

Drastic changes to graduation requirements, curriculum, and the FCAT are being pushed by policymakers, but the changes could cost some serious coin which is raising concern among some lawmakers confused about where theyre supposed to find the cash.

Governor Charlie Crist is asking lawmakers to find an extra 500 million education dollars in a state budget depleted by falling sales tax revenue. Crist says gambling revenues and a freeze on class size requirements will help increase funding. Teacher Unions oppose the freeze.

I think a lot of people are using the economy to try to kill something they never supported in the first place, said Mark Pudlow, a spokesman with the Florida Education Association.

Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp says the economy will play a huge role in how much reform is approved this year.

When moneys tight youve got to get back to the basics, reading, writing and arithmetic, said Kottkamp.

But even the basics cost billions in Florida leaving lawmakers with some tough decisions come March. Some of the changes being championed would bring the state in compliance with the Race to the Top standards making Florida eligible for a billion dollars in federal funding.

Posted in Education, Legislature, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

Jobless Rate Hits 11.8 Percent

January 22nd, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

723-thousand Floridians have lost jobs since the recession began in April 2007. Floridas unemployment rate hit 11 point 8 percent in December, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, new numbers suggest Florida lost more jobs in December than any other state in the country.

After two years, Dora DeVane has had it with looking for a job in Florida. Im applying for jobs in another state. We asked: Do you think you have a better chance there? Devane says I have an interview Monday morning.

Statistically, there are now 5 point 8 job seekers for every available job. New numbers suggest Florida has 16,400 fewer jobs than it did a month ago, making the state the top job loser in December.

State Labor Economist Rebecca Rust says Florida is losing jobs at the same pace as the nation. ” The number of unemployed is 1, 087,000. So Floridas unemployment rate is 11.8 percent is higher than the national rate at ten point 0, also released for December, says Rust.

Almost a quarter million jobs disappeared in 2009. Employers facing five and ten fold
increase in their unemployment taxes to pay claims may be adding to the problem. Richard Harris got laid off in December and cant find work as an electricians helper. He blames the threat of higher taxes.

Nobody is doing anything because of this new tax coming out…nobody is hiring today because they dont know if they gonna have to pay taxes in the end of March” says Harris. “It might even cost some employees.

The lower the educational level, the more likely someone is to be unemployed. The job loss rate is predicted to top 12 percent in coming months. State leaders have vowed to delay an increase in unemployment taxes, but nothing is certain. The higher taxes are due March 31st.

Posted in State News | 16 Comments »

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