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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Just in case, a bleaker-than-ever budget



As state government agencies cope with mandatory 4 percent holdbacks, they are drawing up plans for 10 percent cuts next year if the economy keeps tanking. Gov. Charlie Crist, who will submit his next budget to the Legislature in January, ordered the recommendations as a contingency plan, aides say. But Florida faces a $900-million shortfall in the current year and a projected shortfall of $3.5-billion next year and a new and likely gloomy revenue forecast will be issued on Nov. 21, right after the election.

Could it happen? The Crist contingency plan presents a picture of fewer state troopers on state highways, longer lines at driver license offices, and closings of juvenile detention centers and crime labs. Nearly 500 probation officer jobs would be wiped out in the Department of Corrections. Back on the chopping block, as usual, is the elimination of dentures, eyeglasses and hearing aids for poor people on Medicaid. Here's a timely cost-cutting idea: Some money Florida spends to combat voter fraud would be cut -- and that could result in the loss of $66-million in federal funds under the Help America Vote Act.

Even Crist's office claims it could not take a 10 percent cut: "The Executive Office could not sustain a reduction of this magnitude," the report says. Check out the agencies' proposals here.


[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:56am]


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