Hillsbourough Children's Board Legislative Summit listen01/05/10 Mark Anderson
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The Childrenâ€™s Board of Hillsborough County held its third annual legislative summit this morning in Tampa, to present their top priorities for Tallahassee lawmakers. It was clear from todayâ€™s presentation that State government is facing huge deficits, and that the legislature is struggling to balance the budget.
Today, 22 priority recommendations were presented to State Legislators and key county staff members. Not surprisingly, one common theme was the lack of State funding for education and family programs. Despite the budget shortfalls, education consistently stacks up as a high priority.
Representative Will Weatherford said, "The state budget shortfall is big, and no one has all the answers on how to cover the budget gap this year, or in future years."
Representative Rich Glorioso said, "But the money woes will get worse next year and beyond, when Federal Stimulus money runs out."
Weatherford says many legislators in Tallahassee are thinking about life after stimulus money. "There is disagreement on the wisdom of the stimulus package structure. Some prefer an approach that focuses more on the private sector."
WMNF discussed the stimulus structure with Glorioso, who said "One of the suggestions teed up today, was to reduce costs by consolidating services duplicated between government entities, such as county and cities. The cost savings could then be used to increase funding to education and family programs, or to enable new initiatives such as mass transit and environmental improvement." Combining like services is widely done in the private sector, creating â€œeconomies of scale,â€ which save money. Glorioso commented, "Prioritization of government spending to control the overall deficit remains a challenge. Balancing the needs of critical services such as education and public safety, coupled with strategic funding for game changing projects such as mass transit require a change in the way government is run."
WMNF asked Glorioso about his prioritization views. "The educators and legislators agreed to pursue two initiatives that donâ€™t rely on funding. One is to a ban on texting while driving. The other is to follow the lead of 47 other states in mandating the use of child booster seats for children from 4 to 7 years old."
For WMNF news, this is Mark Anderson reporting from Tampa.