April 22, 2008

Let the hacking begin

With Amendment 1, Florida voters — by almost a two-thirds majority — in January awarded themselves a hefty tax cut. They did it in spite of warnings from multiple industries, municipalities and nonprofit organizations that tax cuts would result in service cuts.

Well, the knives are out, and the results ain't pretty.

Workforce Central Florida (an agency that helps the unemployed find jobs) will, because of budget cuts, close two offices and lay off 50 people this year.

Florida Forever, a state-funded parks and wilderness preservation program, now has zero funding.

Also in the zero-funding category: the state's Crisis Pregancy Centers, whose measly $2 million annual budget is the latest victim of the chopping block.

Barney Bishop, president and chief executive officer of Associated Industries of Florida, a trade group, testified April 18 before the Florida Senate Finance and Tax Committee regarding the next tax decrease proposal the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission would like to get on our ballots [Amendment 5]. He called it a "pig in a poke," saying, "There is no free lunch in Florida. If citizens don’t pay out of their left pocket, they will pay for it out of their right pocket in increased sales taxes."

He's right, you know. So, Floridians, brace yourselves: It's all downhill from here.

April 11, 2008

Satirical anomaly

I love it when copywriters remember that entertainment is a much better delivery mechanism than shouting (I'd tell Billy Mays to listen up, but I don't think he could hear me over himself).

The best advertising does two things: it makes you remember the product, and it keeps you entertained.

We all remember those stupid "Head On" headache potion commercials. And, for that matter, we remember the variety of products Billy Mays hawks. But we remember them because they make us reach for the mute button. Not good.

You remember really entertaining commercials for a better reason—they were fun. Or moving. Or thought provoking. These are the ones you talk about in the break room at work "I saw this great commercial..."

Except that half the time, the story starts with "I don't remember what the product was, but I saw this great commercial ..."

Well, if you don't remember what the product was, its wasn't a great commercial. It was a great 30- or 60-second entertainment, but it wasn't a great commercial unless you remember that the beer in the magic fridge was Budweiser.

So here's a Web site that's a great commercial for clean energy. Copywriters, listen up: satire can be a very entertaining delivery mechanism.


April 4, 2008

Some of us saw this coming

When the national media talk about Florida's January election, it's usually in reference to the Democratic Party representatives losing their seats at the convention.

What often goes unmentioned is the misguided action by some of my fellow Floridians to cut our property taxes. The amendment passed easily, because a lot of people, apparently, are more concerned about their own short-term finances than the state's long-term solvency.

Cut property taxes, as my benighted neighbors chose to, and you cut funding to a whopping number of municipal services, including schools.

Last week, Superintendent Ronald Blocker of Orange County Public Schools sent out a recorded phone message to parents that must have been as painful for him to say as it was for us to hear. OCPS must cut $17 million from the 2008-2009 budget.

Now, the state Legislature must figure out how to pay for stuff. The latest suggestion? Increasing the sales tax.

Goodness gracious. Did you not see that coming? Police and fire departments, road crews, and schools do not pay for themselves. Those of us clever enough to have opposed Amendment 1 know that.

Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's,"* but it seems to me that a great many people are more interested in finagling their way out of rendering anything. They are, to apply the British idiom, penny wise and pound foolish.

My fellow Floridians, we must pay for our schools and roads and public safety professionals somehow. A property tax was an entirely reasonable way of doing this. Now we are faced with a sales tax increase, which will, instead of putting most of the burden on those of us fortunate enough to own real estate, put a disproportionate burden on the poorest of us: our service-sector wage-earning renters.

Of course, any new taxes have to go on the ballot in November, and I don't suspect the penny-pinchers to have come to their senses by then, if ever.

The squeeze is on the local municipalities, and there's no telling how they're going to manage, especially as we appear to be in a recession.

Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis summed it up very well. He's quoted in the Orlando Sentinel as saying "This state is on the verge of being in the toilet with the economy. This act could be the final flush to make that happen."


* Of course, people usually leave off the second clause of that famous quote from the Lord, which in its entirety reads: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."