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Coalition: Wait on Washington Before Slashing Budget

January 14, 2009

While Florida's special legislative session is about to vote on cuts to remedy the 2.3 billion dollar shortfall in the state's budget, the Coalition for Fair and Comprehensive Tax Reform is urging legislators to wait and to take a more balanced approach.

The coalition includes Florida's PTA, AFL-CIO, AFSCME Council 79, Florida CHAIN and other organizations representing labor, children, older adults, and educators. According to coalition leaders, the legislature is rushing into further cuts to critical services, such as schools and health care, without considering other options.

Florida AFL-CIO communications director Rich Templin thinks lawmakers should explore raising revenue and cutting subsidies to sports teams, and consider the impact of the proposed federal economic stimulus package.

"They're saying we have to slash budgets, we have to cut funding, and that's just not true. There is another option. The other option is to raise revenue. And they're just refusing to do that."

The Republican-led legislature tabled the revenue discussion until the regular session in March, arguing the only choice now is to balance the budget by cutting spending.

The coalition is asking legislators to postpone signing the budget until they know how much money Florida will get from the economic stimulus package. Florida is on the most critical list, and could receive as much as seven billion dollars in federal aid. Templin says news on that could be available within a week.

Nonetheless, Templin says, the stimulus package is just a short-term fix, and legislators need to look long-term at ideas for raising revenue. He suggests considering increasing the cigarette tax, reducing sales tax exemptions, or cutting corporate subsidies, instead of cutting services to the needy.

"Why are we subsidizing professional sports teams; why are we subsidizing private companies, millionaires, giving them money, but then taking money away from sick kids? It doesn't make sense."

Karen Woodall, an advocate for the coalition, believes the cuts will hurt those already suffering the most in this economy.

"If you're going to cut 2.3 billion dollars out of a budget that already ranks in the bottom of per capita funding and you're going to do that without raising revenue, you can't avoid hurting our most vulnerable residents."

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL