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Democrats go on attack over budget cuts

House and Senate Democrats went on the attack Thursday, with the House Democrats contending that the budget cuts proposed by Republicans would only add to Florida's economic woes and Senate Democrats complaining that GOP lawmakers were refusing to consider other options, including closing tax loopholes that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars.

"These cuts are wrong, we can do better,'' said Rep. Joyce Cusack, a DeLand Democrat and nurse who complained about the House's plan to shutter a Palm Beach County hospital for TB patients and the proposed elimination of staffing standards for nursing homes. The nursing home standards were adopted as part of the compromise to give nursing homes protection from lawsuits. But Rep. Aaron Bean, chairman of the House Healthcare Council, said the nursing homes need "flexibility" now that the Legislature may cut their funding by 10 percent.

Senate Democrats by contrast raised alarms about the Senate's proposal to slash funding to the prison system and cutting more than 2,000 employees of the Department of Corrections. Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller complained that Senate leaders have so far refused to look at ways to generate additional money, including applying sales taxes to charter fishing boats, as well as go those who use current tax loopholes to avoid paying real estate taxes or corporate income taxes. Geller also called on lawmakers to approve the bill that would authorize all pari-mutuels in Florida to set up video lottery terminals, a type of electronic slot machine.

UPDATE: House Majority Leader Adam Hasner wasted little in shooting back at the Democrats, saying they were not offering "real solutions" to the state's budget crisis, other than House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber's bid to crack down on multistate corporations that avoid paying the state's corporate income taxes. Hasner and other Republicans have dismissed Gelber's bill - which was killed last week - as something that would harm the state's economy.