What Will Survive?

With the state legislature through the second day of a special session, the budget axes are out a bit like a da Vinci scythe chariot. Scythed_chariot_by_da_Vinci

I only pulled that analogy because I was watching “Doing da Vinci” on The Discovery Channel.  Technically, I was watching on the DVR, but I digress. (picture is public domain, according to Wikipedia, where I found it).  It seems as if the legislature is slicing through the budget like this war machine was designed to slice through opposing troops.

Florida Capital News is reporting that funding for the arts has decreased dramatically since the days when tax revenues were pouring in from all the construction going on following seasons with multiple hurricanes.

When lawmakers vote on the state budget next (this) week, a cultural grant program that was nearly $34 million three years ago, and just $6.9 million this year, will shrink to $1 million.Quantcast

A historical grant program that has been whittled from $16.2 million to just $700,000 will shrivel to $200,000.

Florida is now 47th in state spending on arts and culture, a ranking unlikely to improve.

Arts funding affects everything from museum grants and historic preservation documentaries to community theaters and public broadcasting.  But with a 6 million + budget hole to be filled, it’s not surprising that lawmakers would look to what most people feel is outside the core functions of Government for places to cut spending.  And yet with so much uncertainty in the economy, every organization which depends on state funding for major chunks of its operating budget has to be eyeing this special session with some real concern.  For that segment of the economy, it’s very likely that the bottom is yet to come.

Also watching with some trepidation are state workers who are facing the prospect of a salary reduction at the end of the day.

State employees earning more than $45,000 a year will have their pay cut 2 percent under a compromise worked out Sunday by House and Senate budget negotiators.

“This will go over like a lead balloon with most of our people,” said David Murrell, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association. “After two years of no pay raises, now they get a pay cut.”

Later in the article, Florida Capital News reports legislators have agreed to a quarter-mil tax increase for schools, and there are other exemptions for many specific groups.  State employees are understandably upset over pay reductions … but they have been common in many private companies trying to avoid wholesale layoffs.  Governor Crist said recently that there was no way to justify holding state employees harmless as so many others were losing their jobs.  I do hope that what’s good for the goose is good for the Governor.

There is a lot on the table during these budget negotiations.  And no matter what happens in the next few days, it’s likely that the numbers will be revised again in subsequent budget reviews … as they have been the past couple of years.  Tax receipts are not expected to rise in the near term, and while real estate is starting so show some signs of life, it’s not out of the ICU just yet.

I wish the legislators well.  It can’t be an easy task.  Every program has its constituency which wonders why theirs is the funding that is cut.  There are going to be a lot of people who walk away disappointed from this budget negotiation.  Maybe a large portion of disappointed people is one way to show they’re doing their job.

But it can’t be a lot of fun.

Sig

–scene–

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Filed under Florida Legislature, State Budget, Taxes, Thoughts

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