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Cannon: Tax cuts are 'top priority'

We caught up today with Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, who said he's trying to decide which lawmakers to put in what committees. (The Senate, meanwhie, is already taking votes.)

Cannon pointed out that freshmen lawmakers account for one-third of the 120-member House and that two-thirds of the chamber have two years or less experience. "One of the things I'm really focused on is trying to put people where they can best get up to speed and hit the ground running once we start committee meetings in January," he said.

We also asked Cannon about how the Legislture can afford to approve tax cuts or incentives for businesses this year after news this week that the state's budget shortfall is $3 billion or more.

"It is something that is literally the top priority," Cannon said. "Finding out where to make those cuts and how to make those policy changes to support them is the biggest item, I think, in the windscreen of the Legislature right now."

One place Cannon says the state can find some savings is Medicaid. Cannon, a Winter Park Republican, wants President Obama to pressure Congress into letting Florida save money by moving more Medicaid patients to HMOs. (That seemingly simple idea, is, of course, not so simple.)

Congress did give Florida a Medicaid waiver for a pilot program when Jeb Bush was governor and his brother was President. This time, the relationship is a bit more complicated with Florida Republicans essentially doing everything they can to stop Obama's health care changes.

But Cannon said Obama should be in a mood to negotiate after the "resounding rejection" Democrats were handed in the November elections and the mounting economic problems in several states.

"I'm hoping," Cannon said, "the realities of math will permeate the political ideologies of the Obama Administration and Democrats in Washington."