VIDEO: RUBIO – “THE REAL FISCAL CLIFF IS THE GROWING DEBT”

Rubio: “The real fiscal cliff is the growing debt and no plan in place to deal with it. … I’m not going to vote for anything that’s not a solution. We need a real solution. … A solution is policies that put in place economic growth. … The only answer to this dilemma is rapid and healthy economic growth.”

Senator Marco Rubio: “The point now being that the fiscal cliff is a creation of the political branch, although we do have a big fiscal cliff that will eventually reach us. The real fiscal cliff is the growing debt and no plan in place to deal with it. As far as the rates are concerned, look, I don’t have a religious, spiritual objection to higher tax rates. I have an economic objection to it because of the impact it has on growth. Here are the things I would say about that.

“Number one is, an enormous number of people, an enormous number of folks that would be impacted by raising rates on the top earners are not millionaires and billionaires. They are small businesses that pay on the individual rate. And the number of businesses that today pay on the individual rate versus the corporate rate is much larger than it was just a decade ago and beyond when rates were higher under Clinton and others.

“The second question, I would say is, ‘What problem are we solving? Why are you raising the rates?’ Ostensibly, according to the president, it’s because it helps bring down the debt. But the truth is that if you go forward with what the president is proposing you raise about 80 billion dollars a year in new revenue, which is about seven and a half percent of your annual deficit. On the other hand, we know it’s going to have, we believe it’s going to have, an impact on growth. And so the question becomes, ‘What problem are you solving?’ and ‘Are you willing and are you prepared to wipe out some small businesses in exchange for seven and a half percent of deficit reduction potentially?’ I think that’s a bad trade off.

“And the last point I would make about it is, the billionaires and millionaires that are going to be impacted by higher rates, they can afford to hire the best lawyers, lobbyists, and accountants in America, to figure out how not to pay those higher rates. The folks that are going to get stuck with that bill are the small businesses, the partnerships, the S corporations, that cannot hire the lawyers to get them out of it.”

Major Garrett: “In other words, you won’t vote for something that prevents the country from going off the cliff if there are higher rates attached to it?”

Rubio: “I’m not going to vote for anything that’s not a solution. We need a real solution. … A solution is policies that put in place economic growth. Economic growth, you can’t cut your way out of this mess that we’re in. You can’t. You certainly can’t cut your way out of discretionary spending out of this. And you can’t tax your way out of this dilemma. The only answer to this dilemma is rapid and healthy economic growth, like the economic growth that we’ve had in other recoveries, which is significant amount of growth over a period of time. For example, if economic growth after this downturn in the economy had hit its historical average, you would’ve halved, you would’ve been able to cut by half, last year’s annual deficit.”

The Fiscal Cliff Coming Sooner Than You Think

According to the Bi-Partisan Policy Center a set of major tax and spending policy changes are scheduled to occur on January 1 and 2, 2013.

Unless Congress intervenes, these changes will have a substantial impact on the federal budget and the economy at large. The term fiscal cliff was used by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke when he warned of the harm that the American economic recovery would face if Congress does not act.

At midnight on December 21, 2012 the United States will be faced with what is being called the “fiscal cliff.” In short this cliff is composed of several parts.

1. The payroll tax reduction passed in 2010 will end.
2. The temporary tax rates passed under President Bush will lapse.
3. Obamacare’s taxes will come due.
4. The Alternative Minimum Tax will expand to many more taxpayers.
5. Extended unemployment benefits will expire.
6. Some $78 billion in federal spending will be sequestered.
7. Medicare “doc fix” will expire.

Below timeline courtesy of the Bi-Partisan Policy Center:

Fiscal Cliff Timeline

NOVEMBER – DECEMBER
BPC ESTIMATE LATE NOV – DEC 31, 2012
  • Debt limit reached
JANUARY
JAN 01, 2013
  • FISCAL CLIFF IMPACT, CALENDAR YEAR 2013: $661 BILLION
  • Expiration of 2001, 2003, and 2009 tax cuts ($281 billion)
  • Expiration of payroll tax holiday ($115 billion)
  • Deadline for addressing tax extenders and business depreciation ($75 billion)
  • Expansion of Alternative Minimum Tax ($40 billion)
  • Expiration of extended unemployment benefits ($34 billion)
  • Imposition of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act taxes ($24 billion)
  • Expiration of Medicare “doc fix” ($14 billion)
JAN 02, 2013
  • Imposition of sequester cuts ($78 billion)
JAN 03, 2013
  • 113th Congress convenes
JAN 20, 2013
  • Presidential Inauguration Day
FEBRUARY
BPC ESTIMATE FEB, 2013
  • “Extraordinary measures” exhausted
MARCH
MAR 27, 2013
  • Expiration of Fiscal Year 2013 continuing resolution
  • Expiration of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

BPC logo

Florida’s Fiscal Cliff Hanger

Florida’s government run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has more than 1.4 million policyholders statewide. However, that number only reflects approximately 23 percent of Florida’s homeowners insurance market leaving 77 percent of Florida homeowners subsidizing Citizens policies.

According to Americans for Prosperity – Florida, “Nearly half (45 percent) of all Citizens policies in the State of Florida are held by residents living in just four counties – Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties. Only two counties out of 67 have a majority of their homeowners insurance policies with Citizens (Miami-Dade and Hernando Counties), meaning private policyholders in Florida’s other 65 counties are subsidizing Citizens’ homeowners insurance for residents of these two counties.”

AFP – Florida notes that in Miami-Dade and Hernando counties, 100 percent of renters, businesses, automobile policyholders, churches, charities, local governments and school boards are subsidizing their counties’ Citizens’ policyholders.

How did government take control of Florida’s property insurance?

It all started in 1972 when the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association (FWUA) was created under Democrat Governor Reubin Askew to provide wind-only coverage in coastal regions. This was followed by the creation of the Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association (FRPCJUA). FRPCJUA was created in December, 1992 under Democrat Governor Lawton Chiles because hundreds of thousands of Floridians were unable to find homeowners insurance following Hurricane Andrew.

Finally, under Republican Governor Jeb Bush FWUA and FRPCJUA were merged in 2002, creating Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. Citizens offers wind-only and all-perils property insurance coverage to Floridians without private insurance options.

According to a September 2012 white paper from the Insurance Information Institute:

Limited availability of insurance coverage for the most vulnerable property was a problem before 1992, yet became amplified in Andrew’s aftermath.

By the end of 1992, the FWUA had fewer than 62,000 policies and an exposure measured by total insured value of $7.4 billion.1 Five years later, with the formation of the Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association (FRPCJUA), there were 417,342 policies in the FWUA, another 487,590 policies in the FRPCJUA with a combined exposure of more than $136 billion.2

As of June 2012, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., formed in 2002 through the merger of the FWUA and FRPCJUA, had more than 1.4 million policies in force with nearly $500 billion in exposure to risk.

Thomas C. Feeney, III, President & Chief Executive Officer, Associated Industries of Florida states, “It’s unfortunate that more than three quarters of Floridians, and all of Florida business owners, are burdened with the financial responsibility of subsidizing homeowners property insurance for some Floridians in addition to paying 100 percent of their own insurance premium. With estimates that suggest Citizens Property Insurance Corp. rates are roughly 33 percent below where they need to be in order to cover its risk and pay claims…”

“In addition to the unreasonable financial burden Citizens Property Insurance Corp. places on a majority of Floridians throughout the state, the structure of the state-run insurer has also allowed for subsidized, reckless development in the most hazardous and environmentally sensitive areas of Florida. It’s time to reform Citizens in order to protect Floridians from a financial perspective, while at the same time protecting Florida’s wildlife and coast,” says Manley Fuller, President, Florida Wildlife Federation.

The greatest threat to Florida, a.k.a. Citizens Insurance, is just one hurricane away from pushing all Floridians of a fiscal cliff.

RELATED COLUMN:

Florida property owners hit with massive tax increase.

Fired investigators uncovered evidence of misconduct at Citizens’ top levels

Time for government employee pay and benefit cuts?

President Obama, senior administration officials and public policy advisers have stated that the greatest threat to our national security is our national debt. Our military understands this and the Department of Defense is taking the lead in proposing major cuts in pay and benefits for our military, veterans and their families.

The Center for American Progress led by Chairman John Podesta has called for capping military pay raises, eliminating military health benefits for many retirees who are covered by an employer-provided plan, and reducing the value of military retired pay as well as making military retirees wait until age 60 to start receiving it. These proposals have been embraced by the Department of Defense. It is estimated these changes will save $1 trillion over the next ten years.

Should all government employees at every level show the same commitment and take the same pay and benefit cuts to keep us all from falling off the “fiscal cliff”?

If our soldiers who are on the front lines defending this nation and our veterans who have served honorably can sacrifice cannot every government employee? Should not teachers, our police, firefighters, city, county state and federal employees not do their part as well? Are we not one nation facing the same fiscal future?

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has recognized government pay and benefits as a priority issue to be addressed during the upcoming Florida legislative session.

The Five for Florida Plan states, “Our politicians must stop making promises that taxpayers can’t afford. We must force them to be honest with us, and make decisions that will protect us now and in the future. We need an honest, transparent retirement plan that works for both hardworking taxpayers and government workers.”

AFP’s Five for Florida Plan reports:

  • Florida’s Retirement System (FRS) serves more than 1 million government employees, making it the fourth largest public pension program in the country. Source: James Madison Institute
  • The FRS is 88% funded, assuming a 7.75% return on investment. Over the last 12 years, the fund has received an average return of 3.3%. Source: James Madison Institute
  • Florida currently has an optional defined contribution plan, however only 16% of employees elect to be enrolled in it, versus the 84% in the pension plan. Source: James Madison Institute
  • Public sector pension programs guarantee a rate of return that is 3 to 4 times higher than what private sector workers are able to earn. Source: The Heritage Foundation
  • The State of Florida currently contributes $5.5 billion per year to the FRS, but would need to double that contribution to $11 billion a year for the fund to remain solvent. Source: James Madison Institute

Changes must come; government must set the example for the rest of us by stepping up to the plate and making the hard decisions to rein in spending in the short and long terms. Government employee salaries and benefits are now coming under greater scrutiny by both liberal think tanks like the Center for American Progress and conservative ones like Americans for Prosperity.

Finally, we are getting somewhere when both of these organizations come to the same conclusions. The question is do our political leaders have the will to do what is needed?

Now is the time for political leaders at the city, county, state and federal government to see the writing on the proverbial “fiscal cliff”.

The Public Transportation Scam

Nationally transportation is the second largest household expenditure consuming 16% of family income. Americans spend on average $7,677 annually on transportation related costs (e.g. vehicle purchase/lease, gas, insurance, maintenance, repairs, etc.).

According to the most recent National Household Travel Survey 8.68% of Americans own no vehicle while 22.79% own three or more vehicles. The survey shows that since 1969, “the number of households with no vehicle had been declining while here has been growth in one, two and particularly three vehicle households.”

Americans prefer to own their means of transportation. Most travel occurs from point to point – e.g. home to work, school, grocery store or doctor. Personal transportation provides Americans with a solution that best meets their individual needs.

However, over the past decade government has become more involved in promoting public transportation.

Government collects trillions of dollars in taxes from the sale of petroleum products, cars and related services. Yet, today public transportation has been embraced more and more by governments at every level. Government is seeking to: reduce carbon emissions, save money and reduce traffic congestion. But does it meet any of these goals?

Given the fact that only 8.69% of American do not own a vehicle, the need for public transportation is insignificant.  With 91.31% of Americans owning one or more vehicles public transportation is becoming more and more costly with less impact on government’s stated goals and return on investments.

A comparison of national and Florida trends reveals that the distribution of households by number of adults is very similar. However, the distribution of vehicles differs with Florida having fewer zero-vehicle households but also fewer 3, 4, and 5+ vehicle households.

Florida has a higher share of one vehicle households compared to the nation.

Two-thirds of zero-vehicle households are single adult households nationally and in Florida. Further comparison demonstrates Florida has a higher share of households with equal or fewer cars and fewer share of households with more cars than adults.

Expenditures for vehicle travel, specifically fuel taxes and vehicle registration and license fees, are part of the revenue streams that are collected by local, state and federal governments to pay for transportation infrastructure. The fuel tax in Florida is comprised of components levied by the federal, state and local governments. Florida’s fuel taxes range from $.45 to $.53 per gallon. Florida imports nearly all of its refined petroleum products.

Florida’s public transit strategic plan promotes “transit’s role in enhancing the environment, including air quality, energy and greenhouse gas reduction.”

According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), “The private sector makes significant investments in transportation infrastructure. This is particularly true in Florida where infrastructure investment is often a prerequisite to permission to develop. Private sector contributions are as modest as providing employee and customer parking to as significant as paying for major roadway facility improvements and/or donating right-of-way and infrastructure.” These costs are part of property ownership with development costs borne by property owners.

The transportation issue is especially important for Florida due to our high volume of tourists. Cheap and reliable energy and transportation are necessary to sustain and grow Florida’s economy.

During 2010, Florida’s transit agencies ranged in size from the three-vehicle system in Hernando County to the 1,131-vehicle system operating in Miami-Dade County. In 2010, there were 35 fixed-route public transit systems operating in Florida.

FDOT reported that public transportation costs in 2009 were: Operating Expenses of $1,015,050,830 and Operating Revenue $233,922,989. In 2010 Operating Expenses were $985,647,670 and Operating Revenue was $254,316,041. Florida taxpayers subsidized public transportation in 2009 at $781,127,841 and in 2010 at $731,331,629. In 2010 the cost to transport one public passenger was $2.33 with an average fare being $.85.

During 2009-2010 Florida lost over $1.5 billion supporting public transportation.

Does spending $1.5 billion over two years to service less than 8% of the population worth it? Given the burden is being born by those whose budgets are already being stretched to the limit, many taxpayers are saying go private and let those riding pay to ride.

White House: Cut Military Retiree Benefits

Rick Maze, staff writer for the Air Force Times, reports, “A new report by a liberal-leaning think tank recommends a dramatic overhaul of military pay, retirement and health care benefits as part of a $1 trillion cut in defense spending over 10 years.”

Florida is home to 1.6 million veterans and hosts 21 military bases including the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

“The Center for American Progress calls for capping pay raises, eliminating military health benefits for many retirees who are covered by an employer-provided plan, and reducing the value of military retired pay as well as making retirees wait until age 60 to start receiving it,” states Maze.

Recommendations are included in Rebalancing Our National Security, which was released October 31, 2012 by the Center for American Progress (CAP) a liberal think tank.

The CAP report also calls for major reductions in defense spending.

Capping pay raises, the report says, could save $16.5 billion over the next five years. Reducing retiree health care benefits, through a combination of restricting care and raising fees, could save $15 billion a year. Reforming military retired pay could save, in the short term, up to $13 billion a year, and over time could save up to $70 billion a year off the current plan.

Maze reports, “In addition to cutting compensation and benefits, the report also recommends cutting the number of active-duty troops permanently based in Europe and Asia, saving $10 billion a year. It recommends withdrawing 33,000 troops from Europe and about 17,000 from Asia.”

In calling for less spending on military pay raises, the report endorses a plan proposed by President Obama’s Defense Department.

Maze states, “Under the Pentagon plan, pay raises beginning in 2015 would be capped at less than the average increase in private sector pay, a move that responds to a belief that military members are being paid more than civilians with comparable jobs and experience. This happened because Congress, over Pentagon objections, has regularly provided the military with raises that were slightly larger than the average private-sector raise to eliminate what had been perceived as a pay gap. The end result, says the report, is that the average service member is receiving $5,400 more in annual compensation than a comparable civilian.”

“Similarly, the report endorses many of the Defense Department’s proposals for cutting health care costs by raising fees, mostly on retirees and their families. But the report goes a step further: “To truly restore the Tricare program to stable financial footing, the Defense Department should enact measures to reduce the over-utilization of medical services and limit double coverage of working-age military retirees,” the report says.

One idea would be to cut Tricare for Life benefits for Medicare-eligible retirees so that the program would not cover the first $500 of costs per year and would cover only 50 percent of the next $5,000.

Finally notes Maze, “The report also recommends modifying military retirement benefits. For anyone currently in the military with fewer than 10 years of service, benefits could be cut: Instead of receiving 50 percent of basic pay after 20 years of service, with immediate benefits, the report says the benefits would be 40 percent of base pay with payments not beginning until age 60. For people not yet in the military, there would be no fixed retired pay in the future, only a pre-tax retirement savings plan based on contributions from the service member.”

Florida Has 3,756 Federal Employees Who Make More Than Governor Scott

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) asked the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to determine how many in state federal employees are making more than their Governor. Florida came in fifth highest with 3, 756 employees. The top five states are: Colorado 10,875, Maryland 7,283, Arizona 4,426, Alabama 4,299, and Florida 3,756. Delaware had the fewest federal employees making more than their governor at 37 employees.

According to CRS calculations 77,057 federal employees earned more in total annual pay as of September 2009 than their respective state governors earned in 2009.

The top three groups of federal employees in Florida making more than Governor Scott are in the Medical, Hospital, Dental, and Public Health Group (1,830), Transportation Group (588) and Legal and Kindred Group (483).

Table 12. Florida: Federal Employees Compensated at a Rate Greater Than the Governor’s Salary, by Occupational Group  shows the following breakdown. NOTE: Florida Governor’s salary is $132,932.

Occupational Group Federal Employees in Occupational Group Making More Than the Governor:

  • Accounting and Budget Group – 64
  • Business and Industry Group – 46
  • Copyright, Patent, and Trademark Group – 2
  • Education Group – 7
  • Engineering and Architecture Group – 272
  • General Administrative, Clerical, and Office Services Group – 223
  • Human Resources Management Group – 7
  • Information Technology Group – 13
  • Information and Arts Group – 2
  • Inspection, Investigation, Enforcement, and Compliance Group – 84
  • Legal and Kindred Group – 483
  • Mathematics and Statistics Group – 10
  • Medical, Hospital, Dental, and Public Health Group – 1,830
  • Miscellaneous Occupations Group – 16
  • Natural Resources Management and Biological Sciences Group – 40
  • Physical Sciences Group – 57
  • Congressional Research Service – 11
  • Social Science, Psychology, and Welfare Group – 12
  • Transportation Group – 588

Total 3,756

Sources: Governor’s salary information for 2009 was taken from the Council of State Governments, “State Government Compensation by Branch”. The
distribution of positions by occupational group was calculated by CRS using the Office of Personnel Management’s Central Personnel Data File from September 2009.

Read the report titled “Public Servants or Privileged Class: How State Government Employees Are Paid Better Than Their Private-Sector Counterparts“.

Watch this video from Citizens Against Government Waste:

Florida’s Debt Analysis – Time to Erase The Debt?

State Budget Solutions has issued its analysis of debt held by each state. Florida is over $65 billion in debt. Florida’s state debt is 20.53% of the total Gross State Product (GSP).

State Budget Solutions finds Florida workers owe $21,709 each in debt to the state with every Floridian owing $7,079. Even with this taxpayer debt load it appears that the State Board of Education (FBOE) wants even more money. The FBOE wants an increase of funds for public education of 4.4% in 2013.

According to CBSNews.com:

The State Board of Education voted Tuesday [October 9, 2012] to seek a $643 million, or 4.4 percent, spending increase next year for Florida’s public schools and colleges.

The board during their meeting Orlando also approved other legislative requests and a new five-year strategic plan that envisions minority students narrowing – but not fully closing – their achievement gap with white students.

The total $15.6 billion spending request for the budget year beginning July 1, 2013, includes $9.88 billion in basic funding for kindergarten through 12th grade. That would be $322 million, or 3.37 percent, more than is currently being spent. The increase for community and state colleges would be $100.5 million, or 9.43 percent, for a total of $1.17 billion.

The overall 4.4 percent increase equals the state’s estimated growth in general revenue next year.

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) report State and Local Fiscal Condition 2012 notes that growth in local and state government expenditures on education and public welfare are serious problems. Since 1971 state and local expenditures on education are the largest and fastest growing.

The Weekly Standard reports nationally, “The numbers [see above chart] reflect the change in the total number of people employed and the total number of people on the two largest federal welfare programs, as well as Social Security Disability Insurance, between 2008 and 2012,” the minority side of the Senate Budget Committee comments. “The employment figure was derived using the total non-farm and seasonally adjusted number of people employed in December of 2008 (134.4 million) and the number of people employed in September 2012 (133.5 million) as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers of people on food stamps and Medicaid were derived by comparing the number of program beneficiaries in 2008 (as reported by each agency) and the expected number of program beneficiaries in 2012 (as projected by the Congressional Budget Office).”

FL Democrats – Vote Against Combat Disabled Veterans

The Democrat Party of Sarasota, Florida has issued its sample ballots for the November 6, 2012 election. On the sample ballot is a recommendation to Vote No on the Florida Veterans Property Tax, Constitutional Amendment 2.

Florida Veterans Property Tax, Amendment 2 will appear on the November 6, 2012 state ballot in Florida as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The proposed measure would allow for property tax discounts for disabled veterans. This bill explicitly extends the the rights to ad valorem tax discounts, made available in 2010 to all veterans who were residents of Florida prior to their service, to all combat-disabled veterans currently living in Florida whether they were residents prior to their service or not. The proposed measure requires 60 percent voter approval for adoption.

Lee F. Kichen, Sarasota County, Florida resident and Chairman of the Legislative Committee of Florida’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) decried any recommendation to vote ‘No’ on Amendment 2. “We are absolutely astounded that there are political activists that are telling Florida voters that veterans with combat related disabilities don’t deserve a benefit earned in the crucible of battle. The precious right to vote has been guaranteed for over two hundred years by the countless sacrifices of American men and women who served in combat,” states Kichen

“A vote Yes on Amendment 2 is a vote for all of Florida”, says Kichen.

Amendment 2 changes a previously approved Constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters. According to local veterans it “rights a wrong by amending the language to include all combat disabled veterans living in Florida”. The amendment, if passed, becomes effective on January 1, 2013. The reduction in ad valorem taxes would not be realized by disabled veterans until tax year 2013–2014. Florida already provides a discounted ad valorem tax payment for combat-related disability, but it is currently limited to those individuals who were Florida residents when entering U.S. military service.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, Florida is home to 1.68 million veterans, of which 240,102 are receiving disability compensation. Florida has the highest percentage of population who are veterans of any state.

The League of Women Voters also opposes Amendment 2. To see their voting guide click here.

Courtesy of New York Times Company

Deirdre Macnab, state president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, writes, “Being invited to write a column to oppose tax breaks for disabled veterans, low-income seniors and spouses of veterans and first responders (our EMTs, firefighters, etc.) killed in the line of duty is like being asked to throw torpedoes at the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. But do it I will. That’s because this November, Florida voters will see 11 of the most confusing, complex and sometimes misleading state ballot amendments ever proposed, and voters will need to decide: Do I want this in our state constitution?”

Kitchen notes, “The League of Women voters stated the 11 amendments before the voters are ‘…confusing, complex and sometimes misleading…”. Amendment 2 is clearly and unambiguously the most simple. It allows all combat related disabled veterans, homesteaded in Florida and over the age of 65 to earn a benefit that has been already on the books for men and women who entered the military from Florida.'”

Macnab states, “The League’s concern is twofold: First, is the state constitution the appropriate place for tax breaks … for anyone? …Second, should Florida have a level playing field for taxes?”

“Florida is a better place because so many of these aging heroes who chose to retire here. The League and other activist groups are wrongly focused on decreased property tax revenues. They ignore the fact that the 1.6 million veterans living in Florida generate $9.1 billion in direct revenue from the federal government in the form of disability and survivor benefits, VA Health Care, VA construction projects and annual operating expenses. Veterans pay sales, school and property taxes. The League and other opponents fail to understand that a vote against Amendment 2 is more than a vote against combat disabled veterans,” states Kichen.

The League estimates property tax revenues would be reduced by $15 million over the first 3 years if Amendment 2 is passed. Each disabled veteran would see an average decrease in their property taxes of approximately $6,200 over three years.

EDITORS NOTE:

Democrats are also told to vote NO on:

Amendment 8, which repeals ban of public dollars for religious funding (the Freedom of Religion Amendment).

Amendment 9, which authorizes the legislature to totally or partially exempt surviving spouses of military veterans or first responders who died in the line of duty from paying property taxes.

Amendment 11, which authorizes counties and municipalities to offer additional tax exemptions on homes of low-income seniors.

Over 1 Million Florida Medicare Advantage Enrollees Face Benefit Cuts

David Hogberg from Investor’s Business Daily reports, “ObamaCare imposes major cuts on the popular Medicare Advantage program, and while the Obama administration has largely delayed them until after the election, Enrollees will lose an average $515 in benefits in 2013, according to an IBD analysis.”

“Some 14.4 million people are expected to enroll in Medicare Advantage in 2013, up from 13.1 million this year, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said Wednesday. Advantage plans are run by private firms, providing more benefits at a somewhat higher cost — usually 13% to 17% — to the government than traditional Medicare,” notes Hogberg.

eHealthMedicare.com provides the following statistics and facts about Medicare Advantage in the state of Florida.

Total Florida residents enrolled in Medicare Advantage: 1,065,247
Florida residents enrolled in Medicare Advantage HMOs: 762,528
FL residents enrolled in Medicare Advantage Local PPOs: 75,291
FL Medicare Advantage beneficiaries enrolled in Regional PPOs: 220,745
FL beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part C PFFS Plans: 6,254
Enrolled in Florida Medicare Part C Cost Plans: 0
Enrolled in Other Florida Medicare Part C Plans: 429
2010 to 2011 FL Medicare Advantage Enrollment Change: 9%

Florida seniors constitute 7.6% of all Medicare Advantage members. They will lose big in 2013 and beyond because they chose Medicare Advantage plans.

According to Hogberg, “ObamaCare is expected to cut $308 billion from Advantage plans from 2013-22, based on calculations of Congressional Budget Office data. That’s a huge share of the more than $700 billion in total Medicare cuts to help pay for the exchange subsidies and other parts of ObamaCare … ObamaCare is supposed to cut about $10.9 billion from Advantage plans next year, according to the CBO. That will drop to about $7.4 billion — or $515 per enrollee — with the demonstration project offset.”

UPDATE:

This video by My Brain Shark helps explain how Medicare Advantage will be impacted:

Rubio Votes Against Continuing Resolution

After his vote against H.J.Res.117, a short-term Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government for six months, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio issued the following statement:

“Today, the federal government once again left one of its most basic duties unfulfilled – the passage of an annual budget. After four consecutive years of trillion dollar deficits and a $16 trillion national debt, the American people deserve for their elected officials to come together with an action plan to reduce spending and encourage real growth. Instead, Congress passed a continuing resolution that merely extends federal spending at its current levels and punts away the responsibility of governing to another time.

“As I’ve done before, I voted against this short-term continuing resolution because I believe that times are too dire to continue this inaction. We are treading water while the water is boiling. Congress has a responsibility to move America out of this mess by charting a fiscally responsible path for the future, starting with a responsible and balanced budget.

“Instead of working with Republicans to address this issue a long time ago, President Obama merely proposed partisan budget plans that left his promise of deficit reduction behind and were so flawed not a single senator in either party voted for them. In order to move America forward, we need Washington to live within its means and stop borrowing money to support a bloated federal government. We can’t say that President Obama’s leadership has failed this time, because the truth is he hasn’t led at all.”

Department of Defense Has Never Performed an Audit

Today, Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) released its second case study in a series launched last month entitled ‘Defend & Reform’. This study is called “Hiding in Plain Sight: Time for a Pentagon Audit.”

“Did you know that the Department of Defense has never performed an independent audit of its finances? With the national debt now surpassing more than $16 trillion and annual budget deficits exceeding $1 trillion, now is the time,” notes CVA.

Pete Hegseth, Chief Executive Officer of CVA, states, “We should seize this moment—with the nation on the edge of a fiscal cliff—to bring greater discipline, transparency and accountability to reforming the defense budget. This study highlights the need for a long overdue audit to the financial operations of the Pentagon.”

You may read the full case study by clicking below.

Open publication – Free publishing

You may read part one “One Year Later: The Closing of Joint Forces Command” by clicking below.

Florida: Ranked In Bottom Ten For Lawsuit Climates

Governor Rick Scott has repeatedly stated that the axis of unemployment are taxation, regulation and litigation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal reform released its State Lawsuit Climates list and Florida is one of the ten worst offenders. Florida ranks 41st (in the bottom ten) in the U.S. Chamber survey of state lawsuit climates.

According to the U.S. Chamber:

A state’s legal climate is an increasingly important factor in business decisions, according to a survey of senior attorneys and executives conducted for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) by Harris Interactive.

Seventy percent of the 1,125 survey respondents say that a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their companies, such as where to locate or expand their businesses. That is up 13% from just five years ago.

“As our economic downturn has continued, a growing percentage of business leaders have identified a state’s lawsuit climate as significant in determining their growth and expansion plans and the jobs that come along with them,” says Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR. “That makes the consequences of this survey even more significant to the economic growth of individual states.”

The 2012 State Liability Systems Ranking Study found that 51% of senior attorneys view the fairness and reasonableness of state court liability systems in America as fair or poor. However, the percentage who said that liability systems were excellent or very good reached 49%, up from 44% in 2010. This continues a general upward trend in the overall average score—expressed numerically on a scale of 1 to 100—of state liability systems since the survey began in 2002. From 2002 to 2005, the overall score averaged 52, whereas from 2007 to 2012, the score averaged 59. The score increased 3 points from 2011 to 2012. (Scroll down to see a partial list of best and worst legal climates).

Survey respondents said that the most important issues that policymakers should focus on to improve the litigation environment in their states include limits on discovery, elimination of unnecessary lawsuits, fairness and impartiality, speeding up the trial process, and tort reform.

Methodology

Participants in the survey were made up of a national sample of 1,125 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives who said that they are knowledgeable about litigation matters at companies with at least $100 million in annual revenues.

Respondents were asked to grade states (A–F) in each of the following areas: having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements, overall treatment of tort and contract litigation, treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits, damages, timeliness of summary judgment or dismissal, discovery, scientific and technical evidence; judges’ impartiality, judges’ competence, and juries’ fairness. They were also asked to give the state an overall grade for creating a fair and reasonable litigation environment. These elements were then combined to create an overall ranking of state liability systems.

Click here to check out the interactive map and download the report.

Top 5 State Legal Climates:

1) Delaware
2) Nebraska
3) Wyoming
4) Minnesota
5) Kansas

Bottom 5 State Legal Climates:

41) Florida

46) Illinois
47) California
48) Mississippi
49) Louisiana
50) West Virginia

Five Worst Local Jurisdictions

46) Los Angeles
47) Chicago/Cook County
48) California (unspecified)
49) San Francisco
50) Philadelphia

Hasner Campaign: Both Parties Created This Jobs Crisis

This week the Adam Hasner for US House Campaign launches the “It’s About Math” informational series. Between now and Election Day, Adam will be focusing on the real numbers and real issues of great importance to the residents of Florida’s District 22.

“So many people I speak with, regardless of political party, are sick and tired of the name calling and scare tactics,” Adam Hasner said. “What they really want to know is whether or not you have a plan to get America’s fiscal house in order and get our economy moving again. Every day I am talking about just that. I’m hopeful this debate can be about the real differences I have with my opponent on getting spending under control, creating jobs and improving the lives of people in our community. Solving our nation’s problems isn’t about Republicans or Democrats or any political philosophy. It’s about math.”

A key number from the August jobs report released last week was 368,000. That is the number of Americans who stopped looking for work and are no longer counted in the US labor force by the United States Labor Department. (Wall Street Journal, Five Key Takeaways from Jobs Report, 9/7/12).

“This number itself is telling, but it also says more about the individual stories of the college student who can’t find a job, a dad who got laid off, a mom who’s working less hours than she wants to or needs to, a senior who’s had to go back to work to make ends meet because they lost their retirement savings,” said Hasner.

“Behind this number are the stories of the people who are losing hope and beginning to believe that our country’s best days are behind us. It’s distressing that people are giving up. We can do better and they deserve better.

“While the official unemployment rate hovers above 8% for the 43rd consecutive month – perpetuating the slowest economic recovery in decades – Lois Frankel continues to distract attention from spending and the economy and remains silent about what should we do to create jobs.

“That’s most likely because she knows her record on job creation as Mayor was abysmal. Lois Frankel entered office in West Palm Beach with the city’s unemployment rate at 5.4%. But by the time she left office 8 years later, the unemployment rate in her city had climbed to 10.6%. The numbers prove that she didn’t have solutions for West Palm Beach and she’s failed to offer any ideas on how to get our nation’s economy back on track.

“Mayor Frankel continues to support the same misguided Washington policies that for the last 43 months have been failing small businesses, families and hard-working Americans.

“Both parties got us into this mess, but now isn’t the time to point fingers and place blame. It’s time for a new approach:

  • We must reform the current tax code to make it flatter, fairer, and simpler and eliminate loopholes and exemptions.
  • We must eliminate hurdles to form new businesses and right-size regulations that are currently stifling economic growth with red tape and compliance costs and do it with a balanced approach that protects our natural resources and protects consumers.
  • We must unleash the power of Made in America energy with new technologies for safe development of domestic oil and natural gas. Affordable energy is a key factor in creating jobs and attracting companies to bring manufacturing jobs back home.
  • We must also focus on education and worker training initiatives to get the long term unemployed back to work.
  • “What small businesses need is certainty, knowing what to expect so they can make critical decisions to hire new employees, invest in new equipment, and expand their operations.

“It’s time for common-sense policies that will empower private sector job creation to help Main Street get back on its feet and get America’s economy back on the move.

The Battle Over Florida’s Amendment 8 Begins

On November 6, 2012 Floridians will be asked to vote on eleven amendments to the state constitution. Of these amendments Amendment 8 has become the flash point with groups favoring and opposing passage digging in their heels. The war on words has become a full-fledged battle for the hearts and minds of voters.

The proposed ballot question reads:

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support, except as required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

The proposed measure would amend Section 3 of Article I of the Florida Constitution to read:

There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety. No individual or entity may be discriminated against or barred from receiving funding on the basis of religious identity or belief. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

Two groups launched websites explaining Amendment 8: Say Yes on 8 and Vote No on 8.

Vote No on 8 states, “Amendment 8, the so-called ‘Religious Freedom’ Amendment, isn’t about Religious Freedom at all. Amendment 8 actually allows the government to give our tax dollars to any group claiming to be a religious organization.”

Say Yes on 8 states, “Amendment 8 preserves time-honored partnerships between government and social service organizations. Amendment 8 ensures continued delivery of social services by faith-based organizations, lowering government costs for taxpayers. Amendment 8 eliminates discrimination against churches and religious institutions that provide social services.”

Amendment 8, if passed, would take the Blaine Amendment out of the Florida Constitution. The Blaine Amendment refers to constitutional provisions that exist in 38 of the 50 state constitutions in the United States, which forbid direct government aid to educational institutions that have any religious affiliation. The Blaine Amendment was originally aimed at Catholics, most notably the Irish, who had immigrated to the U.S. and started their own parochial schools.

In 2002, the United States Supreme Court in the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris decision partially vitiated these Blaine amendments when it ruled that vouchers were constitutional if state funds followed a child to a privately chosen school, even if it were religious. For a voucher program to be constitutional it must meet all of the following criteria: the program must have a valid secular purpose; aid must go to parents and not to the schools; a broad class of beneficiaries must be covered; the program must be neutral with respect to religion; and there must be adequate nonreligious options.

Billy Atwell in an editorial for the Diocese of Venice in Florida states, “Some support the work of faith-based institutions, but disagree with these institutions accepting government money. They fear faith-based groups would become beholden to the mighty arm of government. Shouldn’t these groups be allowed to serve those in need and do what they do well? It is one thing to say faith-based groups shouldn’t accept government dollars—it is entirely different to outlaw their eligibility for these funds. The current law also flies in the face of religious freedom. Singling out capable social service providers simply because they are faith-based is fiscally unsound and, without a doubt, discrimination.”

While the arguments used by each group focus on religious freedom the real issue is control of taxpayer dollars for K-12 education.

For many it boils down to money, particularly money for K-12 schooling flowing into charter or private faith-based schools. Proponents argue that parents should decide where their child goes to school and the money allocated by the state should follow the child. That is not the case in Florida. Public education fits the definition of a monopoly. This amendment would free parents from being forced into a particular public school. School choice would be empowered if Amendment 8 passes by giving the funding for the child directly to the parent.

Florida Representative Stephen Precourt, a spokesman for the Say Yes on 8 campaigns, stated, “They shouldn’t be telling a group that just because you’re faith-based organization you shouldn’t be participating in the market! Education is a marketplace.”

The ballot question boils down to: Should public funding for education follow the child?

RELATED COLUMN: North Carolina Voters Say Public Education Underperforming, On Wrong Track

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