Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Crist urges Florida legislators to dig into reserves

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist signaled Tuesday that he doesn't like legislative leaders' half-billion-dollar plan for cutting this year's state budget, saying they should use reserves to avoid education cuts.

Lawmakers could decide as early as next week to strip another $357-million from public education in the current year. The reduction, slightly over 1 percent, is part of a plan unveiled Monday to cut state spending by $542.5-million by June 30 in response to a drop in state revenue.

"I don't want to cut education funding. That's unfortunate," Crist said.

But the governor stopped short of threatening a veto if the Legislature approves the education cuts next week when it returns for the start of the annual session: "I'm not going to talk about the V-word yet."

Legislators say that the reserves don't exist and that the revenue picture has steadily deteriorated since state economists delivered the last formal revenue estimate in November. That estimate is what Crist used to build his recommendation for the 2008-09 budget. But the Legislature will use one scheduled for early next month.

This much is already known: Over a two-year period, this year and next, the state expects to have about $2-billion less revenue than was forecast last fall.

"The reserves we thought we had, we don't have," said Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka, the chief House education budget expert. "Without trying to be flip about it, you can't spend what you don't have."

Lawmakers are wary of spending reserves on day-to-day expenses such as salaries because the money can be spent only once. In subsequent years, the state would have to find a different source to cover the payroll.

Republican lawmakers' budget-cutting plan reflects a number equal to a 4 percent reduction of the operating budget for state agencies. In the fall, Crist and legislative leaders ordered state agencies to reduce spending 4 percent in case the economy worsened and tax revenue suffered. The holdback came in addition to another $1.2-billion lawmakers cut from the budget in special session in October.

But some judges are still hoping the state courts will get a reprieve to avoid sending home court workers without pay, all but shutting down the state's court system.

And some legislators gave them hope. In the Broward County Courthouse on Tuesday, Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors, got an earful from a judicial assistant worried about losing salary.

"The furlough idea's not coming from us," Seiler said. "It's a bad idea, and we'll get it straightened out."

Hillsborough Chief Judge Manuel Menendez said more cuts would mean furloughs of 22 days for circuit court employees and 58 days for county court employees. Judges would not be affected.

"The sun is not set yet," Menendez said. "I'm led to believe that there's reason to be cautiously optimistic" that furloughs can be avoided. "As of right now, I'm just trying to keep panic under control."

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe said he had planned for this budget crisis, but at a cost.

"I can weather that cut," McCabe said. "It's meant that I don't have as many lawyers as I want or need. It's meant an increased caseload for those I have … and an inability to increase salaries, which I need to do as well."

McCabe said his office employs about 480 people, and 164 of those are lawyers. He kept 44 positions open by not replacing departed staffers or hiring new ones, but that has left his office understaffed, he said.

As the cuts stand now, every judicial circuit would be forced to furlough employees, state court administrator Lisa Goodner said Tuesday.

She said that her office is working to come up with budgetary alternatives to furloughs, but that it was too early to discuss specifics.

Even after Crist and lawmakers resolve the current year's budget shortfall, they have a bigger one next year.

With the state facing a $2-billion shortfall, Crist wants legislators to expand gambling and drain single-purpose budget accounts known as trust funds to help make ends meet. Many legislators are skeptical of both of those approaches.

Times staff writers Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler, Colleen Jenkins, Alex Leary, Jennifer Liberto, Jamal Thalji and Letitia Stein contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Crist urges Florida legislators to dig into reserves 02/26/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 8:59am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Estimated 5,000 people marvel at MOSI over solar eclipse

    Human Interest

    Packing pinhole cereal box viewers, cardboard glasses and curiosity, solar gawkers gathered outside Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry on Monday for a show that required no ticket.

    At center, Sophia Butter, 8, and Kristina Butera, both of Valrico, watch the sun through eclipse viewing glasses during a solar eclipse party Monday at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. MOSI will reopen after renovations on November 18. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  2. Florida State sees plenty of upside in Dade City native Jacob Pugh


    TALLAHASSEE — No, Florida State senior Jacob Pugh is not as versatile as teammate Derwin James.

     Florida State Seminoles linebacker Jacob Pugh (16) and Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) celebrate after sacking the Miami quarterback Saturday October 8, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
  3. Tampa officer treated for knee injury after police truck, police SUV collide


    Times staff

    TAMPA — A Tampa police officer was treated and released for a knee injury when his unmarked police truck collided with a patrol SUV while the officers were tracking a stolen car, a police spokesman said.

  4. Waiting for the eclipse: 'Everyone thinks this is cool'

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Hunter Holland came to school Monday with a NASA space T-shirt and solar viewers in his button-up shirt pocket. But he'd rather be in Missouri.

    Jayda Hebert (front, center), 11, uses her protective glasses to watch Monday's solar eclipse with her cousin, Judah Adams (back left), 11, and her brother Jake Hebert (right), 9, while with their family at St. Petersburg Beach. "We're skipping school for the eclipse," her mom, Sarah Hebert, said. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  5. Second person resigns from Hillsborough diversity council after Confederate activist appointed


    TAMPA — A second person has resigned symbolically from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the appointment of a known activist of Confederate causes to the panel. 

    Two people have resigned from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the inclusion of David McCallister, a leader of the local branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.