Florida to Obama: Fix cat fund, drilling, NASA
Wake up and good morning. He's still months away from formally taking office but let's get real. With the exception of handling immediate emergencies, Barack Obama is the president now because the economic crisis demands he take the rudder at once and start steering. The news is full of stories about how few presidents have entered office with an economy in such turmoil. Reflecting worries that the worst may not be over, the stock market continues to languish, with a 5 percent decline on Wednesday, leaving it 35 percent below its peak last fall, says the New York Times in a good overview of what Obama may start to do. This USA Today story also sets up Obama's economic priorities well.
Keep in mind that some of Obama's top economic advisers -- from former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and billionaire investor Warren Buffett to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin -- are moderates and reassuring figures to the business community. This NPR report suggests the nuclear power and oil industries, so favored in the Bush administration, may get tougher scrutiny while alternative energy businesses may get, an, uh, windfall opportunity. Health care is also up for big changes. Listen to Wall Street Journal economics editor David Wessel discuss Obama's economic priorities on NPR here. And see what nearly 50 CEOs hope to see from an Obama presidency in this slide show from Business Week.
And what of Florida, its economy and business expectations with Obama at the helm?
According to Tampa Bay's 10, 30-year-veteran realtor Randy Ierna predicts Obama will impact the bay area's housing market by helping FHA and VA mortgage markets. "I think that Barack and the Democratic Congress will strengthen those programs, make it easier for people to get mortgages at a lower interest rates," says Ierna. But Ierna worries a higher capital gains tax under Obama could stifle sales of more expensive homes and commercial property.
An editorial in the Orlando Sentinel touches on NASA's fading impact (without aid), the need for federal support behind a national catastrophe fund to help the property insurance market in the state, the federal subsidy to cover the cost of Everglades restoration and a commitment on keeping offshore oil rigs at least 125 miles from the state's Gulf Coast.
Look for Obama to quickly remove the limits imposed by President Bush on Cuban-American travel to visit relatives in Cuba, support a national catastrophe fund and encourage alternative fuel sources — such as solar power and ethanol that can be made from citrus scraps or sugar cane — an emerging industry in Florida, says this report in the Sun-Sentinel. A Sun-Sentinel poll finds most respondents want Obama to focus first on a quick economic stimulus package (I think Congress already has that in mind) before tackling other matters.
Small-business owners offer a mixed-bag review to the Bradenton Herald. They are wary of Obama raising taxes on folks making $250,000 or more but like some of his other incentives -- like giving employers a 50 percent tax credit on the cost of employee health insurance. Says Lowell Fail of Pools by Lowell:
“That would be really nice because right now at my company we had a 33 percent increase on health insurance and I didn’t raise the deductibles. Any type of break, anything he can do for small businesses I think would help.”
Hey, give the president-elect a break. He just got elected, not sworn in. ... Okay, enough time. We'll regularly track what Florida and Tampa Bay businesses want and don't want in the quickly arriving Obama administration.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist