State Legislators Are Not Experts on Tight Budgets

Article excerpt

Byline: RONALD L. LITTLEPAGE

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature are hell-bent to put a whipping on the spending habits of local governments.

You know what they say about people who live in glass houses throwing rocks.

In a letter published in Sunday's Florida Times-Union, state Sen. Mike Haridopolos made his case that the growth in revenues for local governments has far outpaced the growth in family income and the state's population.

He needs to look in a mirror.

According to figures provided by the Mayor's Office, Jacksonville's general fund increased from $586.9 million in 1998 to $902.4 million this year, a jump of about 54 percent.

Granted, that's a lot.

But during that same period, legislators - the same ones screaming that local spending is out of control - oversaw a state general fund that increased from $17.1 billion to $29.1 billion, or 70 percent.

Considering that, I'm not sure legislators should be handing out advice on belt-tightening.

The problem with the proposals being floated by Crist and the Legislature is they would create a big hole in the budgets local government depend on to pay for services.

For instance, according to the Mayor's Office, doubling the homestead exemption to $50,000 would cut $47 million from Jacksonville's revenues.

That money, the Mayor's Office pointed out, would pay for 522 police officers, or 200 firefighters and 10 fire stations.

It's the equivalent of the entire budget of the parks department and the planning department combined.

Another popular proposal is referred to as portability. …