House Speaker Larry Cretul discusses pressure of taking over for Ray Sansom
TALLAHASSEE - Florida’s “accidental’’ House Speaker, Larry Cretul, shared a secret Thursday as he fielded questions from a friendly Capital Tiger Bay audience.
A low-key lawmaker from Ocala who never planned on being speaker, Cretul took over the job in March 2009 after Ray Sansom came under fire for accepting a $110,0000-a-year job at a Panhandle college that had been the recipient of millions of state dollars while Sansom was in charge of House appropriations.
Sansom has since been charged with grand theft and lying to a grand jury.
“A year ago we may have appeared to be running on all cylinders,’’ Cretul said as he talked about the committee changes he had to make a few months after taking over the job. “But there were moments I was in a fetal position under the desk wondering what was next.’’
This year’s most serious problems stem from a $3.2 billion budget deficit that is likely to grow to $5 billion next year, Cretul said.
“We are focusing on what we can do and doing it for the right reasons,’’ he said.
There is no talk of additional revenue in a state where unemployment rates are as high as 15 percent in some areas, he noted.
And some issues, like dramatically reshaping the state’s retirement system and reorganizing the Department of Health, are probably not going to win approval this year, he said.
Lucy Morgan, Times senior correspondent