Here's how candidates for the Florida Legislature answered questions sent out by the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area. The area league sent questionnaires to all candidates and said it received the following responses.
What impact do you think the enactment of the proposed amendment, which provides a limitation on state revenue collections, would have on the operation of state services?
DEE BILLINGS, Democratic candidate for state Senate, District 22:
The impact would be detrimental as this is the third largest state with 1,000 new residents per day, and we are in the bottom 10 percent on monies spent per child. We can't afford the services now offered. We cannot afford this amendment. We are straining the budget now.
DONALD SULLIVAN, Republican candidate for state Senate, District 22:
I do support HJR 2053, which passed the Legislature this spring and which will appear on the ballot Nov. 8. Some form of spending limitation will force the state to move toward a system of performance-based budgeting and eliminate some of the non-effective spending that occurs.
DANA MALEY, Democratic candidate for state Senate, District 20:
The most important responsibility our legislators have is voting annually on our state budget. Much as a corporation relies on its board of directors, we the people expect and pay our legislators to get the job of government done in a fiscally sound and efficient manner. Otherwise, we should vote them out.
CHARLIE CRIST, Republican candidate for state Senate, District 20:
I believe in giving citizens the right to control taxation. We would not need this amendment if more people held the philosophy that I share of less taxes and less government. I know we have enough funds to provide public safety, keep prisoners locked up and provide a solid education for our children, when we prioritize our spending, just as each of us has to do in our daily lives.
LARS A. HAFNER, Democratic candidate for state House, District 53:
Passage of the amendment would probably cause the Legislature to make reductions in state services and programs. As a fiscal conservative I support close review of state appropriations and have supported cutbacks in services when appropriate. However, I believe the state has a duty to provide essential services, especially to the children and seniors of our state.
ERNEST CURTSINGER, Republican candidate for state House, District 53, did not return a questionnaire.
How would you protect Florida's freshwater resources from overdevelopment?
Water is a statewide problem. This is one area the Legislature must participate and oversee. Some of our rivers are unsafe to swim in. Why? We do not have statewide regulations on our freshwater and drinking water. I will work very hard for water management. To work together we must, as citizens, follow a fair water policy and take responsibility to conserve, city to city, county to county. We must reward conservation and penalize abuse.
Preserving freshwater lakes and rivers should be a focus of the Legislature for years to come. It was started with the recent legislation to restore the Kissimmee River and the Everglades. Preserving our wetlands, decreasing runoff from development, developing new sources of water and limiting water uses are all required to make our rivers and lakes safe. The state is also going to have to assert its ownership rights to all the flood plains and take control of those lands.
Improving water conservation, reuse and storage, thorough monitoring of wetland mitigation and habitat restoration projects, tax incentives for not developing wetlands, limiting pesticides and other damaging chemicals, recycling incentives to reduce dependence on landfills and incinerators and stable funding for Preservation 2000 _ all promote conservation of our freshwater resources.
We can protect our freshwater resources through better management and by seeking out new ways to preserve. We should examine innovative ideas, such as desalination, and we need to encourage more conservation.
We must maintain the delicate balance between our natural ecosystems and the need for water for public consumption. As chairman of the subcommittee on Environmental Protection, I supported SB 1068, establishing a review of the water management districts. We need to have adequate state oversight and hold the boards accountable for their policies and administrative actions.
Do you favor casino gambling in Florida? (Amendment No. 8).
This amendment gives the parimutuels automatic license. What about open and fair competition? If the people of Florida vote for casino gambling it must be available for fair competition. I oppose Amendment 8. Florida is a family tourist state.
I do not favor casino gambling in the state of Florida. I recommend that the people of Florida reject this amendment.
I don't support casino gambling. Concerns that gambling will increase crime and threaten public safety are valid. Gambling threatens other businesses unable to compete for lost gambling dollars. It's a big gamble to abandon Florida's family-friendly vacation image in favor of casinos and their unproven promise of an economic panacea.
I think that casino gambling on the whole could have a negative impact on the state and is not something we ought to do. Yet, I understand those who may advocate casino gambling, particularly those in northern Florida who see tourism going to other states.
No. Our state currently offers tourists and residents the very best beaches, family attractions and recreational activities in the country. I see no reason to bring the negatives associated with casino gambling to our great state.
Would you favor a Florida health care plan that as a minimum would cover the basic health needs of all Florida citizens? If so, how would it be financed?
Yes, thanks to much good work for practical solutions, Gov. Chiles' Florida Health Security Plan will use Medicaid money and state tax dollars to subsidize premiums for working poor and middle-class families, without tax increases. Money will be from savings the state will realize by steering Medicaid patients into less expensive managed-care networks. Affordable health care for up to 1.1-million of an estimated 2.5-million uninsured working Floridians. Basic health needs, met early, save taxpayers money and allow children basic health needs.
What does this mean to us as citizens? It means Florida's children and families can receive preventive health care rather than receiving primary care in hospital emergency rooms at $2,500 a visit.
Who pays? Costs are absorbed by insured patients and taxpayers without basic health care for all Florida citizens.
There are two groups of people who need help with health insurance: those who are uninsurable and those working people who do not earn enough to be able to afford coverage. The first deserve our compassion and help because their circumstances are unfortunate. They will need a subsidy based on need.
The second group is more complex _ here we need the cooperative efforts of the individuals, the state and the employers. If the three do not agree on a plan of action, a successful program is unlikely. The program must not be another disincentive to work and it must not be a burden to small employers.
Financing should come from general revenue.
Florida's health care plan must include affordability, accessibility, quality care and physician choice. Uninsured Floridians receive less preventive and primary care, costing taxpayers more when illnesses advance undiscovered. Better spending efficiencies through purchasing cooperatives and the federal Medicaid waiver to insure 750,000 more Floridians without raising taxes are progressive solutions.
We should strive to provide health insurance coverage to those unable to afford it. Attempting to cover all of the nearly 14-million citizens of Florida would put us in a difficult financial situation and make it hard to do what government's primary function is: to ensure public safety and make criminals serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. This is another kind of health care by ensuring the safety, health and well-being of our law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.
Florida has made tremendous strides in providing accessible and affordable health care to our citizens. Not only is the CHPA program working for small businesses but with the recent federal waivers, Florida will be able to assist 1.1-million uninsured working Floridians and their families to purchase private health insurance. We are addressing the health care needs of Floridians at a savings to the taxpayers.