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Crist shoots down 'raid' on prepaid program

Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday shot down a proposal being discussed by lawmakers to tap the reserves of the Florida Prepaid College Tuition program to patch budget holes. "I don't think that's a great idea," he told reporters. Asked if that meant the idea was "dead in its tracks," Crist said: "Pretty much."

Crist said that despite a 15-percent drop in property values, he did not think the South Florida Water Management District will have to raise property taxes to come up with the $1.3-billion to pay for the U.S. Sugar land acquisition. He endorsed a pair of property tax-cut proposals being debated in the Legislature on Tuesday: "People are hurting, and the more government takes out of their pockets, the less they have for their families," he said.

On fears by police officers of more job losses: "Keep the faith. I don't think that will happen." The governor did not take a position on a plan floated to him Monday by teacher union leader Andy Ford to temporarily increase the 6-percent statewide sales tax rate to boost education. "I listened, courteously," Crist said.

Crist also noted that March 10 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of LeRoy Collins, a Democrat who is widely acknowledged to be Florida's greatest governor. "It is humbling to serve in the office that he once served in and to live in a house he lived in," Crist said.

-- Steve Bousquet

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