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Story Archives: Florida has problems, too
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|Florida has problems, too|
The beaches along the Alabama/Florida border are still pristine, or as pristine as they were the last time I saw them, which was more than five years ago.
There's something about 40-degree weather, though, and a walk along the beach that doesn't mix well. I suppose paying a visit to the Redneck Riviera the weekend before Thanksgiving subjects us to a climate that's less than ideal for flocking in the sun.
Though we've been told for weeks the economy across the nation is suffering, you certainly wouldn't know it at Gulf Shores/Perdido Beach. The construction of a couple of high-rise, high-dollar condominium complexes are under way. The units, which won't be completed for months, have already been sold for the most part.
The locals aren't complaining about the economy either. Money is flowing freely there.
That was more than evident at the big outlet mall in Foley, Ala. It was scheduled to open at midnight, Thanksgiving night (Friday morning), to accommodate the scores of people who, according to shop operators, would stand in line for hours with infants in tow, waiting for businesses to open. Shoppers were encouraged to car pool to make way for more shoppers who apparently believe they can get a better deal at an outlet mall where name brand stores claim they offer their goods at prices far below retail.
Yet, in the midst of all of the hustle and bustle, there it was, a news article on page one of the Pensacola News Journal. It was an Associated Press report, informing readers that the Speaker of House of Representatives in Florida took a job as the chief fundraiser for a state college located in his legislative district. The gig will pay House Speaker Ray Sansom $110,000 annually. That's $110,000 on top of the $40,000 per year Sansom earns as a member of the Legislature.
It gets better, or more news worthy.
Sansom, who is a white, male Republican like every other member of the state Legislature from northwest Florida, will be paid $25,000 more per year than the president of Northwest Florida State College is paid. For the record, Northwest Florida State College is the school that hired Sansom.
Ironically, Sansom secured a $200,000 appropriation during the Florida Legislature's most recent session to establish a "leadership institute" at the college. Sansom and the college's president, Bob Richburg, said the state funding Sansom landed had nothing to do with the House Speaker being hired to ride herd over raising money for that fine institution of higher learning. Furthermore, Sansom's position as House Speaker -- according to Richburg -- had absolutely nothing to do with Northwest Florida State College hiring the lawmaker to raise money for an institution that relies on the state Legislature to appropriate the money the college needs to keep its doors open.
Saddled next to the page one piece on Sansom was a dire report about the Florida Legislature possibly convening a special session in January or February to deal with a $2.3-billion budget deficit.
Already, Gov. Charlie Crist has dipped into Florida's version of a "rainy day" fund to plug holes in the state's operating budget for the current fiscal year. Some $600 million is how much Crist has used to prop up state spending in lieu of cutting it. The governor has another $800 million at his disposal to stave off cuts to the state budget, but in reading the News Journal it appears lawmakers are headed to Tallahassee in the near future to do the dirty deed, or cut funding for programs that are vitally important to the people.
Which government programs would likely be cut if Florida lawmakers and the governor move on that front?
You guessed it.
Education, health care and law enforcement.
In reading about Sansom's new job and the budgetary problems in the Sunshine State, it struck me I wasn't reading about Louisiana. After all, we've encountered our fair share of elected officials using their positions to make money at the expense of the people. We've also been down that budget cutting road before, while another one looms on the horizon. It's a $1 billion projected shortfall, which Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Legislature will face in a matter of months.
Instead, it's Florida -- home to those beautiful beaches and its heretofore rosy reputation -- that's dealing with an elected official using his position to line his own pockets. It's Florida, too, that's grappling with a huge budget shortfall, which inevitably will force state lawmakers and the governor there to slash spending to keep the ship of state afloat.
I suppose it goes without saying that Louisiana isn't the only state in the Union -- historically speaking -- that has a problem or two in paying for the services the people demand from their government. And Louisiana isn't alone in grappling with at least one elected official who feels he's entitled to line his pockets at the expense of a public institution.
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