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Tough journey ahead for our state legislators

Mission: Impossible.

That’s the situation facing the 2009 Legislative session starting Tuesday.

I don’t envy state Reps. Bill Galvano and Ron Reagan. Or state Sen. Mike Bennett.

Not the way the state budget and state revenue continue doing an alarming imitation of the Titanic.

The former is $65 billion.

The latter is $2 billion short.

Something’s got to give.

A depressingly familiar tune this time of year.

Or is the record broken?

Before the legislative long knives are unsheathed in Tallahassee, the issues we Floridians care most about, according to a statewide poll conducted by the Associated Industries of Florida, are several:

n Improve the economy, create jobs, reduce unemployment.

n Improve education.

n Reduce property taxes.

n Cut wasteful government spending.

n Health Care affordability and access.

We’re not concerned how they accomplish these goals, either, according to the poll.

On a scale of 1 to 15, the issue of restoring honesty and integrity to our state government is way down there.

It scored a 3.

Translation: Just get ’er done.

For my money, assuming Uncle Sam’s stimulus is on the way to Tallahassee, reversing our economic decline is No. 1.

It means making jobs, jobs and more jobs.

That includes our education system, priority No. 1A.

Instead of the Legislature using education as its favorite punching bag when it comes to the annual budgetary bloodletting, it would be encouraging if it at least holds the line this time.

Reinvesting in it would be a break from the recent past.

If stupid is as stupid does, you get what you pay for.

The conundrum involving affordable health care and the exodus of Florida physicians is another chronic problem awaiting the Legislature.

Don’t hold your breath on that one.

Just like Big Oil, the health care industry does what the health care industry wants. Our Legislature won’t change it.

As for further reduction of property taxes?

If you think Florida’s declining state revenue is bad now, it would get even worse.

Yes, this upcoming legislative session is going to be a bear, all right.

It will be intriguing to observe what our town’s legislators do.

Especially Galvano and Reagan in their new roles as Rules Chairman and speaker pro tem, respectively.

Effectively addressing the many challenges before the Legislature will be most difficult.

Good luck, men.

Mannix About Manatee, by local columnist Vin Mannix,is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification.

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