Petrogram - Fall 2009 - (Page 15)
Barrister’s COUNSEL State Budget Woes: Robbing Peter to Pay Paul o describe t he 20 09 Legislative Session as the worst budget environment in our state’s history would probably be the greatest underMike Huey statement of the year. Forced by the State Constitution to produce a balanced budget every year, the only bill legislators are required to pass each session is an appropriations bill. An unprecedented $6.3 billion deficit, coupled with an uncertain economic future, required lawmakers to extend the Legislative Session for an extra week to craft the budget. Even though the legislature increased cigarette taxes, raised fees and fines and drew down significant federal stimulus monies, it still could not recoup the revenues to match expenses. So, significant budget cuts were made, and “trust funds” were raided in order to balance the books for 2009-10. Work on the budget grinded to a halt as the legislature waited for congressional action to determine T if federal stimulus funds would be available to Florida to shore-up the budget deficit. As details of the federal money and its attendant “strings” began to emerge, it became apparent that state program reductions adopted during the 2008 Legislative Session prevented Florida from entitlement to significant federal stimulus dollars. Specifically, spending cuts in education funding during the 2008 session precluded the state from qualifying for billions of federal dollars. In order to plug the $6-billion budget hole without raising taxes, it was apparent that the state would have to heavily rely upon federal assistance while employing creative budgeting techniques to bring the session to a close. Unfortunately, this “creative budgeting” included the raiding of thirty-five trust funds, including the Inland Protection Trust Fund (IPTF), to offset education program reductions made during the previous session. Totaling $588,023,958, these trust fund sweeps helped to position the state to draw down $5. 3 bi l l i on i n f e d e r a l assistance. In an attempt to keep the petroleum cleanup program alive, the legislature replaced half of the money swept from the IPTF with bonded revenue, at a cost to the program of $10 million per year in debt service for 15 years. Budget woes spelled demise for an overwhelming number of bills this session. Only 271 out of 2,369 bills were ultimately passed by the Senate and House, the least number of bills passed in over 11 years. However, even in the unfriendly climate for passing substantive legislation, FPMA successfully lobbied for a new law (House bill 375) that now allows retailers to “float” the federal portion of their excise taxes until the day before their suppliers remit to the IRS. The bill was signed into law by the governor on June 11, and will result in an additional $24 million in the pockets of retailers and their local economies, annually. In response to residential contamination caused by large industrial manufacturers, the legislature sought to impose additional requirements for notification of contamination in Senate bill 114. The bill would have affected petroleum retailers by imposing unproportionately onerous notification requirements, potentially exposing retailers to an onslaught of third-party liability claims as well as the additional costs associated with complying with the noticing requirements. The FPMA lobby team held countless meetings with the bill sponsors and DEP to redirect their well-intentioned legislation by crafting language to maintain the status quo for retail sites. The legislation was endorsed by several committees, but it ultimately died prior to final passage. But for the budget issue, we would declare the 2009 session as a victory. We passed our good bill and stopped many bad bills. While we cannot recover the funds for the IPTF, we can assure that this raiding does not reoccur. ❍ J. Michael Huey is a shareholder with the Gray-Robinson law firm in Tallahassee. Contact Mike at 850-577-9090, mhuey@ gray-robinson.com or call the Petro Hotline (877-577-9092). Petrogram | Fall 2009 |
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Petrogram - Fall 2009
Petrogram - Fall 2009
Welcome, New Board Members
Spotlight on FPMA’s 2009 Convention & Trade Show!
Protecting Your Business
Impacts of the American Clean Energy and Security Act
Out & About the Industry
SPECIAL REPORT: U.S. Petroleum Industry Statistics
Why (Your Insurance Company Thinks) Your Tank Insurance Policy Is Worthless
Index of Advertisers/Advertiser.com
Petrogram - Fall 2009
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