Petrogram - Spring 2010 - (Page 15)
Barrister’s COUNSEL Are We There Yet? J. Michael Huey, Esq., Todd C. Steibly Florida’s economic forecasters currently project that legislators will need to cut $2.6 billion from the current budget levels in order to produce a balanced budget for 2010-2011. This follows three years of continual budget cutting, totaling more than $8 billion. The situation is bleak, notwithstanding $5.3 billion in stimulus monies from the federal government, $2.2 billion in new state fees and ﬁnes, and $588 million from 33 trust fund sweeps. Setting ominous overtones for this year, state agencies have already been whittled down to their core missions, health care programs have been substantially scaled back or dissolved and conservation and landbuying programs have been put on hold indeﬁnitely. The federal stimulus dollars that were meant to ﬂoat the state through the recession will dry up December 2010, far sooner than we are expected to clear the tree line of economic recovery. With no rabbits left in the hat, legislators will be facing their toughest session yet, one that will challenge leadership to reconcile conservative ﬁscal principles with essential state functions, such as health care for the indigent, educating children and services for Floridians who have themselves been ﬁnancially ravaged by the economy. Compounding the problem is the political reality that 2010 is an election year. All four cabinet positions, including governor, chief ﬁnancial oﬃcer, attorney general and agriculture commissioner, are open for the 2010 election cycle. Likewise, all Florida House members and half of the Senate are up for re-election. Absent another round of federal stimulus money, which is unlikely, we can expect that the Legislature will be forced to consider either shutting down essential state services or ﬁnding new revenue streams to keep the state’s ﬁnancial blood pumping and preserve critical state functions long enough until Florida’s sales-based tax structure can be taken oﬀ of life support. As the budget will remain the dominant issue of concern and command, virtually 100 percent of legislators’ attention this Session, protecting the Inland Protection Trust Fund and funding the petroleum cleanup program, will again be the number one legislative issue for FPMA. The sad irony is, unlike other trust-funded programs that have been cut as a direct result of signiﬁcantly reduced revenues, the foul economy has spared the IPTF and its revenues have remained vibrant. It is the strength and consistency of the fund that makes it a ripe target for plundering. The question is: will the Legislature rob the fund and not use the revenues for its intended purpose? As dire as last session was, this session’s parade of horribles is stacking up to be much worse. The political stakes are much higher and the November elections will play a major role in any legislative attempts to remedy the state’s ﬁnancial woes. Regardless of whether the question “are we there yet?” is ultimately answered to anyone’s satisfaction, we must encourage our legislative leaders to construct a measured and meaningful solution to the budget crisis, rather than merely putting another band-aid on the problem by sweeping the IPTF and other trust funds. ❍ Mike Huey is general counsel for the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. He has been engaged in the area of petroleum marketing law for over 30 years. Mike is a partner in the statewide law firm of GrayRobinson and practices in the Tallahassee office. His phone number is 850-577-9090 and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Todd Steibly is a government consultant in the Tallahassee office of GrayRobinson. His phone number is 850-577-9090 and his email address is email@example.com. Petrogram Mike Huey Todd Steibly ach of us remembers making the long journey. Some relegate the memories of it to the deepest confines of their consciousness. For others, the memories are all too fresh from the recent holidays. Although an oxymoron, the Family Vacation is a deeply rooted American tradition that is most notably exemplified by the ever-present question that is rarely answered to anyone’s satisfaction, “Are we there yet?” A simple analogy can be drawn from the family vacation to describe what legislators will be dealing with as they attempt to craft the state’s budget during one of the worst economic recessions in memory. Here, too, legislators invariably put the question to their economists: “Are we there yet – has the economy ﬁnally hit bottom?” State economists continue to deliberate over this simple question because the well-being of all Floridians is riding on the answer. The Legislature utilizes these projections to fund or de-fund assistance programs, raise taxes, fees and ﬁnes, sweep trust funds, or a combination of all of the above. Like Clark Griswold driving his family cross-country in their wood-paneled station wagon to Walley World, state economists cannot foresee all obstacles in their path and, consequently, even these brilliant and seasoned folks cannot be sure when we will get there. What all economists seem to agree upon, however, is that Florida will be among the last of the states to realize economic recovery, primarily due to our unique tax structure that disproportionately relies on sales taxes to fund state operations and obligations. | Spring 2010 |
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Petrogram - Spring 2010
Petrogram - Spring 2010
A Celebration of the Petrogram’s 50th Anniversary
How to Stage a Great Grand Opening
FPMA Efforts to Improve the Cleanup Program
Out & About the Industry
E-10 and Single-Wall Fiberglass Tanks
Are You Ready for PCI Compliance?
Crind and Bear It
Index of Advertisers/Advertiser.com
Petrogram - Spring 2010
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