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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Everyone hates it, so it's gotta be good?
By HOWARD TROXLER
Published June 14, 2007
By Wednesday, as folks started getting a little edgy in the Capitol and everybody had found something to hate in the Legislature's property tax plan, the Republicans who run the place were gripping their lecterns and saying the same two things over and over.
The first thing they kept repeating was some variation on the Tallahassee cliche, "Perfect is the enemy of good." What they meant was that even if you don't like this plan for a tax cut, it's better than no tax cut at all.
The second thing that the top Republican lieutenants kept saying was that the Legislature really needs to "bring this thing in for a landing."
Presumably, they meant, without crashing.
At midday Wednesday, hundreds of firefighters from across Florida held a rally in the Capitol courtyard to protest the tax cuts. Most were in uniform and there was a truck from the Tallahassee Fire Department there, too.
The merits of the issue aside, firetrucks and firefighters are really cool. They make for a much better visual than a bunch of legislators sitting around a table.
Yet, as the firefighters rallied outside, inside the Capitol the plan was zipping along, passing its first hurdles in committees of the House and Senate.
There are three parts of the deal:
- A cut on property taxes and a cap on future increases, starting next year.
- A constitutional amendment for bigger homestead exemptions.
- Voting on that amendment Jan. 29, instead of waiting until November 2008.
But make no mistake, lots of folks still think the plan stinks like a bad fish.
Serious tax haters don't like it because it doesn't cut enough. It even lets the locals override the annual tax cap.
Some also don't trust the homestead exemption. If you lost your Save Our Homes cap on your home's value, and then got socked with a high new appraisal in future years, you might pay more even with a bigger exemption.
But there's also increasingly vocal opposition from the other end of the spectrum, from folks worried about cuts in services and education.
The new homestead exemption cuts more than $7-billion in school taxes over the first five years. We gotta make up for it somehow; the Republicans have not said exactly how. The Democrats mock this as the "Trust Us" promise. So almost everybody doesn't like something about it.
"Join the club, " sighed the speaker of the House, Marco Rubio, who pointed out that his own first preference had been to get rid of homestead taxes altogether.
At 4 p.m., Rubio, who usually is a charming and pleasant fellow, delivered stern remarks accusing Democrats of opposing any tax cut, while hiding their true agenda behind these criticisms. As soon as Rubio left, the Democrats' leader, Dan Gelber, grabbed the lectern and said things about the Republicans.
At 6 p.m., the Florida House of Representatives went into a dramatic nighttime session to debate whether this plan is (1) the biggest tax cut in state history or (2) the rushed, ill-considered and biggest-ever cut in education and services.
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I'm in Tallahassee this week posting updates and commentary from the session on TroxBlog. Click on the "Blogs" link on www.tampabay.com, or use the Web address blogs.tampabay.com/troxler.