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Crist's budget plan a risk for lawmakers

To close a $2.3 billion budget hole, Gov. Charlie Crist asked lawmakers Tuesday to gamble a bit: Raid savings accounts and trust funds, avoid permanent spending cuts for now and hope for better times to come.

Lawmakers reacted coolly to Crist's proposal heading into the Legislature's Jan. 5 special session to balance the $66.3 billion budget.

For many legislators, Crist's proposal to spend savings and borrow money is risky because it could create a bigger hole for the next budget year. It already has a projected deficit of at least $4 billion. Crist emphasized the positive aspects of his proposal Tuesday, and held out hope for a federal stimulus package to help the state.

Miami Democratic Sen. Dan Gelber said the cuts Crist wants lawmakers to approve have started to cause visible harm to classrooms. Echoing Republicans who would only talk off record, Gelber said the governor's plan was troubling.

''It's not just a gamble. It's a faith-based fix,'' Gelber said. ``But it's not even a fix. It's denial. We're not filling holes. We're creating holes.''

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