If you're like me (and unfortunately there are more of you than will admit it), part of your Sunday morning routine is to check the Lotto numbers. In fact, it's usually one of the first things I do as I settle in to read my newspaper. I figure that if I've become a multimillionaire overnight, I should know it as soon as possible.
After all, there would be so many things to do if my numbers came in. I'd have to call the boss and tell him how sick I planned to be for the next 20 years. And then I'd only have a few minutes to pack while I waited for the limousine to arrive and whisk me off to the airport. During the drive there, my wife and I would have to decide which exotic beach we would lounge on while deciding how to spend our new-found fortune.
The chances of that happening are slim (well, microscopic considering that the odds of winning the Lotto are about 14-million to one), but I've never let that stop me from dreaming.
Those of you who also entertain fantasies about how to spend your winnings, take heart. The smart, unselfish individuals you elected to represent you in Tallahassee may be about to give you a scaled-down opportunity.
The Legislature has more money _ hundreds of millions more _ than it knows what to do with. Revenue is way up and the legislators' resolve to spend it on anything other than pet projects is way down. (There is so much pork in this budget that they should make a pig the state mascot.)
So, as state college tuition increases 7 percent, and as the stipends promised to teachers for classroom supplies are cut from $250 to $100, and while school districts are being forced to incur more debt in order to acquire state money to build new schools, our learned legislators are focused on something more important:
After approving the state budget, the Legislature spent most of last week discussing a number of proposals to return some money to the state's residents. There are several ideas on the table, including various tax breaks, but the one with the most momentum would give most of Florida's homeowners a $50 rebate check. It's just our legislators' $200-million way of sharing their good fortune with all the little people who have contributed so much to their success.
They should be ashamed. Such a barefaced election-year ploy insults the intelligence of every voter and taxpayer in the state. It should be illegal for politicians, especially conspiring as a group, to so blatantly attempt to buy votes.
But, my disgust causes me to digress from the point of this column, which is about the satisfaction one may receive from spending money.
The $50 rebate plan would allow homeowners (sorry, renters) to spend the money on something extravagant (like food or clothes), or something more sensible _ like giving it back to the state!
That's right, Senate Majority Leader Locke Burt, R-Ormond Beach, said last week, "If you want to send it back, send it back." The senators are even considering enclosing a card with the rebate that will make it easy for us to designate how we would like them to spend our money (again).
Granted, deciding where the state should spend your $50 is not quite on par with appropriating the millions we all plan to win in the Lotto, but it could be good practice. The idea of allowing taxpayers to decide where their money will be spent also has its own libertarian appeal.
So, following the Legislature's selfless example, I've decided I will return my share of the windfall, and I've come up with a list of possibilities of how I will designate my $50.
If you have better ideas, and I'm certain you do, send them in. But don't delay. By the time I receive them, the Legislature could have cut the rebate by 60 percent _ just like they did for the teachers.
The best $50 I ever spent
Ten suggestions for what the Legislature can do with Jeff Webb's $50 rebate (To ease their bookkeeping chores, I've limited my choices to ten $5 increments.):
1. Develop a minimum basic skills test to be a legislator.
2. Install lie-detector machines on the floor of the Senate and House.
3. Provide anger-management training for University of Florida football coach Steve Spurrier.
4. Book commercial airfare for Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, so he can stop using taxpayers' planes.
5. Buy some history textbooks that were printed sometime after the Treaty of Versailles was signed.
6. Compose a letter to be sent to every county commissioner and school board member in the state to explain why, if the state has so much money, local governments must raise property taxes and sales taxes to pay for basic services and facilities.
7. Change the first day of the legislative session to April Fools' Day.
8. Buy themselves a conscience.
9. Set up an interest-bearing account in my name so that by next April there may be enough to pay the Internal Revenue Service my share of the taxes on the $50 in added annual income.
10. Finally, they can take the last $5 bill from my financial bonanza, roll it up very tightly, gently squeeze it between their thumb and forefinger, and insert it where only the most adventuresome proctologists dare go.