Governor proposes $2.7 billion Florida budget hike

The growing number of recession-wracked Floridians who are expected to qualify for government-paid health care is the main factor behind Gov. Charlie Crist’s call Friday for a $2.7 billion spending increase in the next state budget.

Crist’s proposed $69.2 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 is still well short of the state’s $73.8 billion spending peak in 2006-07 — just before Florida’s housing bust and the national recession.

The state-federal Medicaid program that provides health care for low-income citizens jumped from 2.4 million to 2.7 million patients in 2009. Its rolls are expected to expand to about 3 million by the end of the next budget year, June 30, 2011.

Crist has proposed adding $2.6 billion in state and federal dollars to the budget to cover the 300,000 additional patients as well as other increasing expenses. [Read the full article]

The trailer industry and lawmakers are pressing the government to send Haiti thousands of potentially formaldehyde-laced trailers left over from Hurricane Katrina — an idea denounced by some as a crass and self-serving attempt to dump inferior American products on the poor.

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“Just go ahead and sign their death certificate,” said Paul Nelson of Coden, Ala., who contends his mother died because of formaldehyde fumes in a FEMA trailer.

The 100,000 trailers became a symbol of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s bungled response to Katrina. The government had bought the trailers to house victims of the 2005 storm, but after people began falling ill, high levels of formaldehyde, a chemical that is used in building materials and can cause breathing problems and perhaps cancer, were found inside. [Read the full article]

President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union Wednesday that “one in 10 Americans still cannot find work.” But in nine states the figure is much worse — closer to one in five, according to Labor Department data released Friday.

The figures are a stark illustration of how tough it is to find a full-time job, even as the economy has grown for two straight quarters. The official unemployment rate of 10 percent doesn’t include people who are working part-time but would prefer full-time work, or the unemployed who have given up looking for work.

When those groups are included, the devastation in many parts of the country is clear: Michigan’s so-called “underemployment” rate was 21.5 percent in 2009, the highest in the nation. California’s was 21.1 percent, while Oregon’s was 20.7 percent.

Many companies and state governments have cut back on workers’ hours during the recession. [Read the full article]

Gov. Don Carcieri urged lawmakers Friday to adopt a package of cost-cutting measures for cities and towns after receiving a report that outlined the financial strains on local government as the state’s economy tanks.

The Republican governor said the report is further evidence that lawmakers in the Democratic-dominated General Assembly must pass his budget package that includes measures meant to trim costs for local governments. It would force municipal employees to pay more for their health insurance, end a requirement that schools hire bus monitors and cut pension benefits, among other steps.

“You need to have the ability to get out and manage the pieces that are driving the cost,” Carcieri told members of a task force he formed to evaluate budget pressures on local government. [Read the full article]

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