What a changed world we live in. Who among us would have guessed that 2009 would greet us with the amount of change and uncertainty it has. Nationally, a new President and Congress – all of the same political party – are attempting to deal with (1) a troubled economy at home and abroad, (2) global insecurity due to extremists and rogue states, and (3) a healthcare system buckling under its own weight. In Florida, 2009 will be a year of great decision. Our Governor and Legislators will be faced with important decisions about how to finance the needs of our citizens when our revenues are falling faster than our revenue estimators can predict. I have heard estimates of $3 billion to $5 billion in additional lost state revenue, all of which must be dealt with by additional spending cuts or new sources of revenue.
Hard choices face our elected officials. Understandably, they are loath to cut programs further and so they will begin to look for revenue. Existing sales tax exemptions, new or increased taxes (tobacco, alcohol, gasoline), and certainly fees will all be in play. Traditional sources of emergency money, such as raiding trust funds and rainy day funds, are all but depleted.
The Federal stimulus plan has caused many to forget their principles of less government and a market driven economy in favor of lining up for bail-outs that we will be repaying for decades to come. There is no such thing as free money…something all of us inherently know, but some are more worried about getting our share than that it is wrong in the first place.
So, come March 3 when the regular 60-day Legislative session convenes, we will be facing an unhappy legislature with unpopular options. We will encourage them to make choices that do the least damage to our current and future economy.
Following are some of the issues on which we will be working on behalf of Florida’s retail industry. Many more are sure to surface. Please call us with your questions or suggestions. We are fighting for you every day…
Richard A. McAllister
FRF President and CEO