Senate President Jeff Atwater pulled out the five dollar words in an address to the Senate Ways and Means Committee where he said that new taxes are off the table. They weren't last year, of course, when the Legislature raised $2.2 billion worth of them. Election year politics? Nah, Atwater has said.
Anyway, Atwater made his comments before the Senate unveiled the first stage of its Transparency Florida initiative showing citizens how money flows through the state budget. Some fascinating stuff, like the nearly $83 million the state spent on electricity alone last year.
Some speech excerpts:
"As difficult and challenging as our decisions have been, we are not facing crippling deficits. We have managed our fiscal responsibilities well. And we should not allow the shrieking cacophony of special interests to drown out this simple fact: we have faced up to and made the difficult decisions. What we have not done and what we will not do is leave our sons and our daughters and future generations of Floridians with an intolerable burden of taxes and debt."
Regarding questions about the budget hole and how to fill it:
"The premise of the question is sadly missing the reality of our moment. Current expenditures of the people’s money is exceeding the tax revenue that the people are now providing their state government.
We must make those same difficult decisions. We must separate the requireds from the desireds. The people of fl do not have one more dime to send us. So let me be clear. When it comes to constructing a state budget to meet the critical needs of the people of this state, I am not starting in a hole. I am starting from scratch. And I will work at your side to construct such a budget. But we will not extract one more dollar from the small business owner of this state or from any Floridians wallet to accomplish the task."
Applause from fellow Republicans. Democrats smiled.
"This defines the context which we will be facing this session. It does not matter how we got here. It only matters that we are here. It matters that we demonstrate to our fellow Floridians that we are in this together -- that we will not succumb to the easy answers and that we will not burden them further."