Bill repealing ethanol standard passes Florida legislature

Representative Matt Gaetz (FL-District 4)

Florida Representative Matt Gaetz sent out this email to his constituents:

Today, the Florida Senate passed SB 320 sponsored by Senator Evers.  This language is equivalent to the House bill that was passed two weeks ago and repeals the ethanol mandate in the state of Florida.  I am proud to say that both chambers of our Legislature agree that consumers in Florida should not be subject to oppressive mandates.

This legislation will now be sent to Governor Rick Scott. We are hopeful that after this long battle, the faithful patrons of our great state will be relieved of the overwhelmingly negative effects of ethanol. Following two years of fighting for this repeal, there is only one step is left before it will officially become law.

I cannot thank you enough for your endless support.  It is an honor serving you and I look forward to the final weeks of a successful legislative session.

Very truly yours,

Matt

Tax Day 2013: America waking up with a case of an in the red Monday

The following is courtesy of the Heritage Foundation:

Americans are waking up today to the worst “case of the Mondays” they’ll have all year: It’s Tax Day.

Most Americans dread Tax Day, and for good reasons. Beyond the huge tab Americans pay to the government, the tax code is so complex that it’s difficult to figure out what we owe to the IRS. This is a pain for taxpayers and a huge drain on the economy.

According to the federal Taxpayer Advocate in its 2012 report, Americans’ cost of complying with today’s complex tax code totaled $168 billion in 2010. That’s almost as large as the impact of the Obama tax hikes in fiscal year 2013, and twice the size of sequestration this year [see chart].

It takes taxpayers 6.1 billion hours—or 51 hours per household—to complete all the required filings. That’s more than six full eight-hour working days per household!

The compliance burden comes on top of the direct financial cost of $3.5 trillion in federal spending. In 2012, Washington collected $20,000 in taxes for every household in America. But Washington spent nearly $30,000 per household.

TaxDay_403

Americans pay high taxes as it is, and with the 13 tax increases that hit this year, tax revenue is growing beyond its historical average as a share of the economy. But Washington’s deficits continue, because spending keeps going up.

Future Tax Days promise to be even worse because of the tax increases from the fiscal cliff deal and from Obamacare. Taxpayers will start seeing these costs when they do their tax returns next April and in future years.

Too much taxing and spending is bad for the nation. Americans are right to be concerned about how the President and Congress allocate their hard-earned money. As the above infographic shows, 45 percent or almost half of all spending went toward paying for Social Security and health care entitlements. Without reforming these massive and growing programs, Washington will have to borrow increasing amounts of money, piling debt onto younger generations and putting the nation on a dangerous economic course.

Growing government spending threatens current and future taxpayers with higher taxes. Congress should reduce spending and prevent any more tax increases. Congress also needs to reform the tax code so it is less of a burden on the American people.

Tax day is a real drag, but it doesn’t have to be this bad. Learn more at savingthedream.org.

Read the Morning Bell and more en español every day at Heritage Libertad.

Tampa Bay Young Republicans, Local Leaders Join Forces To Attract Magpul Industries Corp.

Magpul products displayed with special operations soldier

Tampa, FL – Today, the Tampa Bay Young Republicans along with local county and state legislators have signed a letter addressed to executives at Magpul Industries Corp. of Colorado in an effort to earn their consideration of Hillsborough County as the site of their new manufacturing operations and corporate headquarters.

According to its website, “Magpul was founded in 1999 with the intent of developing a simple device to aid in the manipulation of rifle magazines while reloading under stress. The company’s name comes from this original product called the Magpul®. Over the last decade Magpul has continued to grow and develop using much the same mission and process with a focus on innovation, simplicity, and efficiency.”

On March 18, Magpul Industries Corp. announced via their Facebook page that due to Colorado Governor Hickenlooper’s signing of HB 1224 which limits firearm magazine capacities – their core business – that they would be relocating their manufacturing operations to a location to be determined 30 days from the signing of the bill.

“As the saying goes, their loss is our gain, and we have an incredible opportunity to attract hundreds of manufacturing jobs and one of the country’s largest defense contractors to Hillsborough County.” said Jonathan Torres, President of the Tampa Bay Young Republicans.” We are fortunate that like us, we have community leaders that have seen this great opportunity and joined us in this effort to attract such a perfect business partner for the Tampa Bay area.” said Torres.

Joining the Tampa Bay Young Republicans in this appeal is Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners Chairman Ken Hagan, and State Representatives Dana Young and James Grant. “The Tampa Bay region is a natural fit for Magpul Industries as it searches for a new place to call home.” says Grant. “Florida has a tremendous record of protecting Second Amendment rights and would welcome Magpul with open arms.”

Hillsborough County is currently home to MacDill Air Force Base, whose mission is to support the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), and much more. The Tampa Bay Young Republicans are certain that this will be a great opportunity to create post-military service careers for many veterans of MacDill Air Force Base and help keep them in our community.

Magpul’s website reads, “There is something to be said for great ideas, however, ideas are nothing more than dreams until they are realized in a form that is accessible to the marketplace. Magpul is known for its creative design solutions, and we are proud of our accomplishments in this arena not only because they are novel, but because we have successfully turned many of our dreams into reality.”

Tampa is hoping one of their great ideas, which turns into a reality, is a move to the sunshine state.

To view the letter sent to the executives of Magpul Industries Corp. click here.

About the Tampa Bay Young  Republicans

The Tampa Bay Young Republicans is a social, philanthropic, and activist organization serving young professionals between the ages of 18 and 40 in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. TBYR’s mission is to create a network of politically conservative-minded individuals promoting Republican philosophies, values, and those candidates running under the Republican Party. For more information visit www.tbyr.com.

Exposing Tax Filing Costs

As part of National Taxpayer Burden Month, Watchdog Wire is presenting a series of interviews, columns and videos dealing with the current progressive income tax system. The current income tax was created 100 years ago with the passage of the Sixteen Amendment to the US Constitution.

As part of our National Tax Burden Month activities we are highlighting a series of videos produced by Kerry Bowers, the State Director for Nevada FairTax. For 13 years Bowers lived in Florida, the last 4 as the Panhandle Director for the Florida FairTax Educational Association.

According to the Fair Tax website:

The FairTax is a national sales tax that treats every person equally and allows American businesses to thrive, while generating the same tax revenue as the current four-million-word-plus word tax code. Under the FairTax, every person living in the United States pays a sales tax on purchases of new goods and services, excluding necessities due to the prebate. The FairTax rate after necessities is 23% and equal to the lowest current income tax bracket (15%) combined with employee payroll taxes (7.65%), both of which will be eliminated.

Bowers support to FFTEA and AFFT has been through legislative expertise specific to HR 25/S 122, computer presentations, and video productions. The following is a video presentation exposing the true tax filing costs born by every taxpayer.

To video more video presentations by Kerry Bowers go to his YouTube Channel.

RELATED COLUMNS:

When is your tax freedom day?

VIDEO: Buchanan Tax Reform panel raises disturbing future without major changes

Disclaimer: The author is on the Board of Directors of the Florida FairTax Educational Association

Wealth is coming to Florida from guess where?

Governor Rick Scott is working to make Florida business friendly. One part of what is happening, missed by the media, is the transfer of wealth from other states to the sunshine state.

The website HowMoneyWalks.com has an application that tracks how money moves between states and between counties within states. This is a great resource for anyone interested in how wealthy individuals literally vote with their feet, and bank accounts.

Below is the over view of the wealth gain for Florida from 1995-2010:

Florida

Wealth Migration 1995-2010

Gained $86.39 billion in annual AGI*

*AGI – adjusted gross income as defined by the IRS. For most people AGI is the starting point in calculating their taxable income.

Gained Wealth From:

$16.76 billion   New York
$10.20 billion   New Jersey
$6.22 billion   Illinois
$5.89 billion   Ohio
$5.68 billion   Pennsylvania

 

Lost Wealth To:

$1.38 billion   North Carolina
$710.67 million   Tennessee
$465.83 million   South Carolina
$413.47 million   Arizona
$345.49 million   Texas

 

Looking at the sixty-seven counties in Florida we find that Miami-Dade is the only county that has lost wealth between 1995-2010. Here is the view of wealth loss by Miami-Dade County, FL:

Miami-Dade County (FL)

Wealth Migration 1995-2010

Lost $2.18 billion in annual AGI*

AGI – adjusted gross income as defined by the IRS. For most people AGI is the starting point in calculating their taxable income.

Gained Wealth From:

$312.84 million   New York County, NY
$159.88 million   Queens County, NY
$105.37 million   Middlesex County, NJ
$88.39 million   Kings County, NY
$83.80 million   District Of Columbia, DC

 

Lost Wealth To:

$2.15 billion   Broward County, FL
$299.04 million   Palm Beach County, FL
$121.28 million   Orange County, FL
$107.22 million   Collier County, FL
$107.19 million   Hillsborough County, FL

 

Rubio: We don’t need a new idea. There is an idea. The idea is called America, and it still works. (+ video)

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) visited Sarasota, FL on March 15, 2013. He was greeted by over 50 donors at a private event hosted by Jesse Biter, a local entrepreneur. During his remarks at the Sarasota event Senator Rubio restated his belief that “We don’t need a new idea. There is an idea. That idea is called America, and it still works.” This was what he said at CPAC 2013.

Watch Senator Rubio’s CPAC 2013 remarks:

Senator Rubio was introduced at the Sarasota event by Representative Vern Buchanan (FL-13). Rep. Buchanan noted that he has traveled across the globe looking at what other countries are doing to promote economic growth. Rep. Buchanan noted that China is doing better at growing its economy than the United States, noting that China is on track to create 20 million jobs annually.

Senator Rubio during his remarks spoke about the $1 trillion in outstanding student loans, half of which will be in default. He said that this student loan burden impacts the middle class and our youth most of all. He also raised the specter of a rising China and its impact on the global economy. Rubio warned of not having enough workers skilled to fill 3 million of today’s jobs. He touched on the national debt, Congressional spending and an intransigent White House.

Those in attendance at the Sarasota event and those at CPAC 2013 were impressed by Senator Rubio’s “the American idea” comments. However, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey does not agree with Senator Rubio’s outlook.

Rabbi Pruzansky states in an email, “The simplest reason why Romney lost was because it is impossible to compete against free stuff.”

Rabbi Pruzansky notes, “Every businessman knows this; that is why the “loss leader” or the giveaway is such a powerful marketing tool. Obama’s America is one in which free stuff is given away: the adults among the 47,000,000 on food stamps clearly recognized for whom they should vote, and so they did, by the tens of millions; those who – courtesy of Obama – receive two full years of unemployment benefits (which, of course, both disincentivizes looking for work and also motivates people to work off the books while collecting their windfall) surely know for whom to vote. The lure of free stuff is irresistible.”

“During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai Stevenson: ‘Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!’ Stevenson called back: ‘That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!’ Truer words were never spoken,” states Rabbi Pruzansky.

Will there ever be a majority of thinking persons?

Rabbi Pruzansky does not think so. He closed his email with, “If this election proves one thing, it is that the Old America is gone. And, sad for the world, it is not coming back.”

Sinkholes: Florida taxpayers’ looming financial disaster

Sinkholes have been in the news recently when Mr. Jeff Bush went missing after his bedroom was swallowed up. Efforts to find Mr. Bush have been stopped.

See the  map below to understand the extent of the Florida sinkhole problem:

Click on map for a larger image.

The tragedy of Mr. Bush is overshadowed by the potential costs of paying sinkhole claims by Citizens Insurance Corp. 

According to the September 2012 Citizens Property Insurance Corporation rate hearing, “Citizens lost nearly $1 billion on sinkhole losses occurring in 2007-2011 with a loss ratio for sinkhole business for 2011 of 877%. This created net loss for the PLA for year ended 12/31/11 and resulted in less financial resources to pay for future hurricanes.”

Unlike private carriers Citizens is not able to manage risk and reduce policy counts to manage such risk. As an insurer of last resort, created by Florida statute, Citizens must write most risks that apply for coverage.

Florida property owners received their property insurance bills and found the line item “FL HURRICANE CAT FUND PREMIUM RECOUPMENT”.

When Watchdog Wire asked Citizen Insurance: Is this recoupment a tax increase on all homeowners? The reply was, “Yes, all Floridians assume the potential for assessments should Citizens run into a deficit situation.”

This “recoupment” is a tax on every Florida property owner.

According to Citizens Insurance, ”Citizens may levy an Emergency Assessment when Citizens incurs a deficit in any year and that deficit exceeds the amount to be collected by the Regular Assessment.” See Florida Statue 627.351(6).

Florida taxpayers may be the next sinkhole victims – a sinkhole called Citizen Insurance.

Bondi versus Scott on expanding Medicaid in Florida

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board is all in support of Governor Rick Scott’s decision to expand Medicaid in Florida. In an opinion column titled “Medicaid numbers add up: Legislature should join Scott in recognizing the benefits of expansion” the editorial board states, “Federal aid hard to pass up.”

That statement sums  up the issue. The question is does Florida want more citizens on federal aid? What benefit is that to Florida taxpayers?

The opinion column states, “The Legislature — which convenes its annual session March 5 — will ultimately decide whether to expand eligibility for the program to cover all Floridians under age 65 who earn up to 138 percent of the poverty rate. That’s $29,700 for a family of four; currently, coverage in Florida is limited to 100 percent of the poverty level, a shockingly low income of $22,350 for a family of four.”

What the Sarasota Herald-Tribune fails to say is why salaries in Florida are so low. The reason is because Florida jobs are low paying.

According to the South Florida Business Journal, “The average annual salary for Floridians ranks No. 32 nationwide, according to a new On Numbers analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Floridians have an average annual salary of $40,750, or an hourly wage of $19.59, as of May 2011. A rather low ranking considering the Sunshine State ranks fourth for the highest number of employees at about 7.2 million.”

The Sunshine Review reports, “According to 2008 Census data, the state of Florida and local governments in the state employed a total of 1,049,028 people. Of those employees, 832,252 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $3,302,955,436 per month and 216,776 were part-time employees paid $213,151,877 per month. More than 51% of those employees, or 539,321 employees, were in education or higher education.”

The average annual net pay of government employees in Florida is just over $47,624.

Working for government, at the expense of Florida taxpayers, and expanding Medicaid benefits, thereby expanding number of government employees, is considered by many a mistake.

Among those coming out in opposition include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. According to BizPac Review, “Bondi said she ‘firmly disagrees’ with Scott’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage under the Obamacare legislation, but the final outcome will go before the Florida Legislature and she feels they will make the right call. “This could really devastate our state,” said Bondi. “And cost a tremendous amount of money.”

The numbers do not add up. As the Sarasota Herald-Tribune notes, “During the first three years of the expansion, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the state’s cost of broadening coverage.”

According to the federal Affordable Care Act, the federal contribution would be about 90 percent after those three years. The Agency for Health Care Administration found that Florida would save $3.9 million in the next fiscal year by rejecting Medicaid expansion — but it would pass up $2.1 billion in federal funding. While the state’s share would increase over time, by the 2020-2021 budget year Florida’s cost would be $487 million, compared with a federal contribution of $4.2 billion.”

So, Florida loses money as time drags on, assuming of course that Congress keeps its word and funds Medicaid according to the law.

Democrats Against Sustainable Development and Smart Growth

If you go to your city, county, school board or state official website you will see words like “sustainable development” and “smart growth”. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) uses these words on its website. The FDEP website states, “The goal of the Sustainable Initiatives programs is to promote sustainability in Florida businesses, schools and homes. Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present population without compromising the ability of future populations to meet its needs.”

Another example is the University of Florida sustainability website. The about page reads, “Simply defined, sustainability is meeting contemporary needs without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their needs. More comprehensively, it means looking at the issues and problems facing our world with a new perspective – one that focuses on three interdependent areas of concern: ecological preservation, economic viability, and social justice.” Note the words “social justice”.

Florida even has a Sustainability Institute, whose mission is to address, “Direct threats, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events, and indirect risks linked to our region’s status as a global destination and trade center, place Florida on the front lines of the fight against global warming. ”

So why are Democrats, especially progressive ones from California, against sustainable development and smart growth? Answer: It is all about taking away property rights.

The leader of these progressive Democrats is Rosa Koire, ASA, who is a forensic commercial real estate appraiser specializing in eminent domain valuation.  Her twenty-eight year career as an expert witness on land use has culminated in exposing the impacts of Sustainable Development on private property rights and individual liberty.

Koire is on the Board of Directors and Executive Director of The Post Sustainability Institute. The Post Sustainability Institute was established to study the impacts that “Sustainable Development” and “Communitarianism” have on liberty.  The intent is to track the progression of the sustainability movement and to forecast the most likely outcomes if it proceeds unchecked.

Koire became involved in 2005 when she was elected to a citizens’ oversight committee in Santa Rosa, Northern California, to review a proposed 1,300 acre redevelopment project in which 10,000 people live and work. Her research into the documents justifying the plans led her, with her partner Kay Tokerud, to challenge the fraudulent basis for the huge Gateways Redevelopment Project. The City, in an attempt to block Koire from exposing the project, removed the neighborhood in which Koire and Tokerud’s properties were located from the redevelopment area.

Koire and Tokerud fought on, however, not wanting to abandon the thousands of business and property owners still in the area. They formed a business and property owners association and a non-profit organization (Concerned Citizens of Santa Rosa Against Redevelopment Law Abuse) and were able to raise nearly $500,000 in donations and pro bono legal work to sue the City of Santa Rosa to stop the project. The court case, Tokerud v. City of Santa Rosa, lost in Superior Court but the court ruled that they could continue, and they appealed to the San Francisco First District Court of Appeals where they lost again in 2009. The three years of litigation fighting eminent domain and the redevelopment project succeeded in delaying the project while the economy collapsed–the City has failed to implement its plans, but still has the power of eminent domain over the 1,100 acre area until 2018.

Koire is the author of the book “Behind The Green Mask“. In the book Koire states:

No matter where you live, I’ll bet that there have been hundreds of condos built or planned in the center of your town recently. Over the last ten years there has been a “planning revolution: across the US. It was the implementation of Growing Smart.

Your commercial, industrial and multi-residential land was rezones to “mixed use”. Nearly everything that got approvals for development was designed the same way: ground floor retail with two or three stories of residential above. Mixed use.

Very hard to finance for construction, and very hard to manage since it has to have a high density of people in order to justify the retail. A lot of it empty and most of the ground floor retail is empty too. High Bankruptcy rate. Two areas like this in Jacksonville Florida – off Gate and Southside where Three Forks Restaurant is? And at Town Center mall. [My emphasis]

Florida has been run by Republicans for over a decade. It was during that decade that “sustainable development” became the cause of the party and those elected at every level. All in the name of the taking of property to insure social justice for future generations.

What impact does inflation have on the minimum wage?

The Dollar Times has posted on its website an inflation calculator.  The calculator, “[W]ill tell you the relative buying power of a dollar in the United States between any two years from 1914-2013. It will also calculate the rate of inflation during the time period you choose.”

The calculator determines the value of a dollar using the Consumer Price Index from December of the previous year. All calculations are approximate.

The Dollar Times offers these facts: In 2007, the inflation rate was 4.08%. This was higher than any year since 1990. In 2008, the inflation rate was 0.09%, the lowest rate since 1954.

Using the calculator Beth Colvin from Sarasota Patriots provided WDW with these facts:

Minimum wage in 1955 was $0.75 which was equivalent to $4.39 today. Minimum wage in 2012 was $7.25 which was equivalent to $4.97 in 1955. Minimum wage in 2013 will be $9.00.

$1.00 in 1955 had the same buying power as $8.60 in 2013.

Therefore $9.00 today represents buying power of $77.40 in 1950.

So go to the Inflation Calculator and have some fun seeing how the value of your dollar and buying power has changed over time.

Time for Florida to Pull the Plug on Electric Vehicles?

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report in 2012 that has received scant media attention. The report titled “Effects of Federal Tax Credits for the Purchase of Electric Vehicles” takes a critical look at government subsidies for electric vehicles (EV).

Proponents argued for tax subsidies on the promise that EVs would reduce gasoline use and emissions.

The CBO report states, “[T]he [tax] credits will result in little or no reduction in the total gasoline use and greenhouse gas emissions of the nation’s vehicle fleet over the next several years.”

The CBO notes, “At current vehicle and energy prices, the lifetime costs to consumers of an electric vehicle are generally higher than those of a conventional vehicle or traditional hybrid vehicle of similar size and performance, even with the tax credits, which can be as much as $7,500 per vehicle. That conclusion takes into account both the higher purchase price of an electric vehicle and the lower fuel costs over the vehicle’s life.”

The following chart provides an overview of the CBO findings:

According to the US Department of Energy – Alternative Fuels Data Center, Florida has 351 charging stations. These EV charging stations are concentrated in the cities of Orlando, Tampa and Miami/Dade. Nearly all of the state charging stations are part of the California based ChargePoint Network. According to its website, “ChargePoint customers include large corporations such as Google and SAP; utilities such as Orlando Utilities Commission…” NovaCharge, LLC is the distributor of charging stations in the Southeast United States and is headquartered in Tampa, Florida. According to the NovaCharge website it is, “[D]edicated to enabling a better environment for future generations by supporting zero-emissions transportation infrastructure.”

Florida is home to several early adopters of EVs. Among them is the Fahs family – Fran and Ron.  Fran is also owner of  Tallahassee based Green Energy Marketing and Consulting, LLC. Fran created the Electric Vehicle Initiative (EVI) website and has become an activist for expanding the use of EVs in Florida and across America.  The EVI website states, “For years we have wanted to do something substantial to help the environment. Empowering people to take control of their transportation costs while taking a big chunk out of global warming is our desired contribution.”

In a personal email Fran Fahs stated to WDW, “With the recent attack on the Algerian oil field, the mega-storms and mega fires of the past years, I think that many more people understand that the time has definitely come to reduce our dependency on oil. It is evident from the environmental degradation that we see in our world that these environmental costs that will be passed on to the taxpayers, represents a subsidy to oil producers, since we, and not they, are paying for these high environmental costs of mining that oil from the ground.”

The common thread in all of these EV initiatives is to “help the environment” and “reduce transportation costs”. The CBO report appears to fly in the face of both of these goals. Continued subsidizing of EVs has no measurable effects other than using taxpayer money to fund credits for those who would have bought their EV anyway. Taxpayers are also subsidizing the costs of the charging stations.

It is commendable to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. That has been the stated goal of the Department of Energy since its inception. That goal has been elusive. However, another report by the US National Intelligence Council projects energy independence for America as achievable within 20 years. The path to energy independence is due to two new technologies – fracking and horizontal drilling.

WDW has asked for comments on the CBO report from Florida proponents. When they are received this column will be updated.

Governor Scott comes under fire for his $2,500 teacher pay giveaway

Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida will have a budget surplus in 2013-2014 of $437 million. That is good news. Republicans got to this point of a surplus after years of budget deficits by cutting the size of government programs. The Republican party stands for less government, lower taxes and less spending.

So what does Scott want to do with that money?

He wants to give teachers an across the board pay increase of $2,500, which will spend the entire surplus and more. This idea is drawing boos from teachers unions. It is also drawing fire from other public service employees such as fire fighters, EMS personnel and law enforcement officers. Why teachers and not them? Some are even saying that Scott is buying votes, much like President Obama and members of Congress who increase benefits for government employees and those who take for a living via welfare programs.

Here is something that Scott may not have considered: Why not give the money back to the taxpayers?

It is the taxpayer who carries the burden of the salaries and benefits of public employees. Any salary increase to any public employee is a further long term burden on the Florida Retirement System. The Tampa Bay Times reports, “In a major victory for the state, the Florida Supreme Court ruled 4-3 against state workers and allowed the state to retain the 3 percent levy on worker salaries to offset the state’s investment into the Florida Retirement System.”  Download Retirement ruling.

Union leaders do not like it when their members have to contribute to their own retirement programs like public sector employees do. So this move by Scott appears to be pandering to one group of union employees. Scott may be giving up hard fought ground based upon the recent Florida Supreme Court decision.

Who holds the bag for any government employee pay increase? Answer: Florida’s taxpayers.

We will see what the Florida legislature does with the budget surplus. Any bets that they will find a way to spend it? Are Republicans morphing into Progressives? What the legislature does with this surplus will be a key indicator of where they stand on taxes and spending.

US Government: Fracking is the Future

The US National Intelligence Council has released its latest report Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds.

The report states:

“Experts are virtually certain that demand for energy will rise dramatically—about 50 percent—over the next 15-20 years largely in response to rapid economic growth in the developing world. The US Energy Information Agency anticipates steadily rising global production through 2035, driven primarily by a combination of OPEC production increases and larger unconventional sources. The main or references scenario of the International Energy Agency also posits growing global production of key fossil fuels through 2030 (about 1 percent annually for oil). Much of this increased production—and recent optimism—derives from unconventional oil and gas being developed in North America. The scale-up of two technologies, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, is driving this new energy boom. Producers have long known shale “source rock”—rock from which oil and natural gas slowly migrated into traditional reservoirs over millions of years. Lacking the means economically to unlock the massive amounts of hydrocarbon in the source rock, producers devoted their attention to the conventional reservoirs.” [My emphasis]

“Once the industry discovered how to combine hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the vast gas resources trapped in shale deposits became accessible. The economic and even political implications of this technological revolution, which won’t be completely understood for some time, are already significant,” stated the report.

In a tectonic shift, energy independence is not unrealisticfor the US in as short a period as 10-20 years. Increased oil production and the shale gas revolution could yield such independence. US production of shale gas has exploded with a nearly 50 percent annual increase between 2007 and 2011, and natural gas prices in the US have collapsed.”

US has sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs for decades to come, and potentially substantial global exports.

Service companies are developing new “super fracking” technologies that could dramatically increase recovery rates still further.

The report concludes, “The prospect of significantly lower energy prices will have significant positive ripple effect for the US economy, encouraging companies to taking advantage of lower energy prices to locate or relocate to the US. Preliminary analysis of the impact on the US economy suggests that these developments could deliver a 1.7-2.2 percent increase in GDP and 2.4-3.0 million additional jobs by 2030.

Read the entire report:

Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds by

The Integrity of the Florida Public Service Commission in the “Toilet”?

Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) website states, “The Florida Public Service Commission is committed to making sure that Florida’s consumers receive some of their most essential services — electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater — in a safe, reasonable, and reliable manner. In doing so, the PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in one or more of three key areas: rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and monitoring of safety, reliability, and service.”

The FPSC was considering a rate increase for Florida Power and Light (FPL) late last year. However, the process according to those attending the public hearings on the rate increase was usurped by FPL and commission staff at the expense of Florida citizens. Larry Nelson, a citizen present during the 2012 hearings in Sarasota and Miami, outlined in a letter how FPL was given preferential treatment by the Commission and staff.

Nelson wrote, “My first stop on my adventure was the public service hearing held in Sarasota on May 31, 2012. Here I first saw the most shocking thing about the public hearing process. In the lobby of the hearing site (Sarasota City Hall) were numerous FPL customer service representatives wearing FPL shirts who are greeting members of the public arriving to speak to the rate increase proposal. And FPL seems to have their own dedicated room. Which made no sense at all. It’s like a court hearing but one of the parties to the case gets to have their own room in the courthouse and a staff to lobby everyone, judges, jurors and the public as they walk by as to why their side is right. FPL also gets to have a table handing out literature. Nobody else gets to have a room or a table or representatives right outside the hearing room. There is no Audubon Society, no Environmental Defense Fund, no Florida Public Interest Research Group in the lobby lobbying (I guess that is where the term comes from!) against the rate increase or against the proposals or actions of FPL.”

The result of the rate increase hearings was FPSC issuing an Order on January 14th, 2013 granting Florida Power and Light FPL the ability to self-regulate over the next 4-years and to increase rates without citizen representation by the Office of Public Counsel. Thomas Saporito, from Saprodani Associates, believes that the process by which the FPSC came to issue this order was at best flawed and at worse illegal violating  multiple Florida statutes.

Saporito states, “The recent decision by the Florida Public Service Commission has placed public trust and confidence and the integrity of the agency in the “toilet”. No longer can the citizens of Florida have any measure of trust or confidence in the agency to be an advocate for the Public Interest regarding electric rates established for the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). ”

According to Saporito, “The settlement is “illegal” as a matter of law because the Commission does not have requisite jurisdiction and authority to consider the settlement for several reasons:

(1) the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) opposed the settlement and OPC represents all FPL ratepayers – and is a vital and required signatory to any FPL settlement;

(2) the settlement violates the “due-process” rights of citizens who would otherwise intervene where FPL seeks recovery for power plants which have not yet been built or are not yet operational;

(3) the Commission placed the settlement hearing on a rush basis and denied intervenors from fully participating in the discovery process; and

(4) the settlement allows FPL to create a “slush-fund” and access depreciation and dismantlement funds without proper oversight for the sole purpose of raising FPL’s return on equity (profits for its shareholders).”

Thomas Saporito filed a motion for reconsideration on January 14th, 2013 asking the Commission to reconsider its decision.

According to Saporito: “I am gravely concerned about the Commission’s approval of the revised settlement with FPL where the citizens had no representation by the Office of Public Counsel. I have raised serious mis-conduct issues about the entire Commission with Steven J. Stolting, Inspector General – Office of Inspector General and I have asked his office to conduct an investigation.”

Depending on the Commission’s decision on his motion to reconsider – Saporito, “Fully intends to challenge the Commission’s Order – in filing an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court – and to file with agencies of the federal government – and perhaps a civil legal action.”

Gov. Scott to Meet with HHS Secretary Sebelius on Medicaid

The Villages TEA Party in an email to its members states:

“FACTS: On Monday, January 7th, Governor Rick Scott will meet with HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius to discuss expanding Medicaid in the State of Florida. Economists predicted in November 2012 that the Medicaid expansion would cost $9 Billion, however the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration estimates the cost to be near $25 Billion. Those who know the Obama Care law have always said that implementing it will break the states eventually, and increasing Medicaid is a big component in this destruction. Many are already seeing the numbers inflating.”

The costs of the Medicaid expansion will impact the Florida Medicaid program.

According to StateHealthFacts.org Florida in 2010 spent over $17.3 billion on Medicaid. Medicaid costs have gone up annually. From 1990-2001 Medicaid costs in Florida went up 11.8%. Between 2001-2010 Medicaid costs increase in Florida more than doubled to 24.5%, outpacing a national average cost increase during the same period of 19.8%.

According to the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, “The federal government agreed to fund 100 percent of the cost for states to expand Medicaid for three budget years. The federal government would cover 95 percent of the costs in 2017, 94 percent of the costs in 2018, 93 percent of the costs in 2019 and 90 percent of the costs in 2020 and beyond.”

The expansion is voluntary, but the federal government said it would penalize any state (by withholding Medicaid funds) that failed to comply. That penalty was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2012. The court’s ruling allows states like Florida to decline expansion without losing any current funding.

UPDATE:

Governor Scott release the following statement today:

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Governor Rick Scott met with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss how the state can improve cost, quality and access in healthcare for Florida families. Governor Scott said his meeting with Sec. Sebelius focused on the projected $26 billion state cost of doubling people in Florida’s Medicaid program under the president’s new healthcare law, and requesting HHS approval for the state’s long-term care and Statewide Medicaid Managed Care plans that would make healthcare more affordable.

Governor Scott said, “We had a great conversation with Sec. Sebelius today about how we can improve cost, quality and access in healthcare for Florida families. We need to know more about how the healthcare choices facing our state would affect families – many who are still struggling to get a job and make ends meet.

“I believe that Medicaid is an important healthcare safety net. Florida’s Medicaid program today provides health care to over 3.3 million Floridians and is approximately 30 percent of our state budget. The cost of Medicaid has been growing at three-and-one-half times the growth rate of the state’s general revenue, which crowds out our ability to invest in K-12 education, higher education and other priorities.

“Growing government is never free. Under the new healthcare law, Florida would nearly double the people in our Medicaid program over 10 years. AHCA estimates that this would result in a total cost to taxpayers of more than $63 billion over 10 years, including $26 billion in costs to Florida taxpayers. We also know that adding people to Medicaid will affect our state for generations to come because government growth is almost never reversed. The current fiscal cliff debate here in Washington is proof of that.

“I also asked Sec. Sebelius to approve our state’s Statewide Medicaid Managed Care and long term care proposals, which are currently awaiting HHS approval. We also discussed ideas for lowering health care costs, including tax incentives for individuals to buy insurance, price incentives for healthy behaviors, and flexibility to buy personalized coverage. Our ultimate goal is to lower the cost of healthcare in Florida so all families can access the level of care they desire.”