Money On The Table

Florida Lawmakers Leave $130 Million In Gambling Money On The Table

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Legislators in the state of Florida are patting themselves on the back for working to fix a budget deficit without having to raise taxes. What they are not admitting is how they left $130 million of possible revenue on the table while cutting funds going to education in the state.

The lawmakers in Florida called a special legislative session to deal with the shortcomings of the state budget. They vowed at the beginning of the session to not make tax hikes to cover the budget problems. They succeeded in that. It is their failure, however, to approve a Seminole Indian casino gambling compact that had Governor Charlie Crist annoyed.

“I’m a little disappointed in some things. I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to go ahead and convince the members of the House and Senate to do the Seminole compact, which would have helped to the tune of about $130 million more. I remain optimistic it’ll be done in March, but it should’ve been done now,” said Crist.

Instead, legislators chose to continue holding the state hostage for their own benefit. Still upset that the governor negotiated the compact without them in December of 2007, lawmakers are now trying to show the governor the amount of power they possess.

“We used every tool at our disposal except any tax increases. That was the commitment made at the beginning of the session…and we fulfilled that commtment,” said Rep. David Rivera, the House education Budget Chief.

One of the tools that was used while the gambling compact money was not, was a $480 million cut to school districts. The Florida Forever conservation program, which purchases endangered land in the state, will also be on a feeze for a year that will save the state $20 million.

“The Seminoles are more than willing to finalize their deal with the state, yet lawmakers again held people of the state hostage whlie punishing Governor Crist for his actions. It was irresponsible for these legislators to ignore the money that could have been gained while taking money away from our education system,’ said one teacher in Palm Beach who did not want to be identified.

The teacher’s point of view was echoed by many in the school systems on Monday after hearing about the legislators plan to bridge the budget gap.

The Seminole compact will now be put off until March, when it will most likely get done. In the meantime, blackjack, baccarat, and Las Vegas style slots continue at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

As the Palm Beach teacher put it, “The state loses out on revenue money between now and March from the Seminoles, and some teachers may lose their jobs because of it.”

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