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Jeb Bush wants another vote on bullet train

(Florida television station WBBH posted the following Associated Press article on its website on March 4.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- In his annual address to the opening of the Florida legislature, Governor Jeb Bush says the state of the state is uncertain. Bush threw cold water on the idea of a tax increase to fund smaller classes and is instead asking lawmakers to send the controversial amendment back to voters for another say.

The governor wants more money for security, and money to boost tourism, and he wants voters to tell him again if they really wanted smaller classes and a high speed rail system.

"I believe we must go back to the voters and have them make a decision, with all the information in hand," Bush said.

Bush repeatedly said during the campaign that he would have to raise taxes if smaller class sizes were approved. Now he says that's not what voters meant at all.

"I don't want to raise their taxes, I want them to make that determination," Bush said. He said other states "have tried to tax and spend their way to property. It's not working."

But the idea of asking for another vote has Democrats angry.

"Blaming our budget deficit on the fact that parents want to give their kids a decent education is just not accurate," said Broward County senator Steve Geller.

Even some key republicans are leery.

"They mandate what we implement, they knew it was going to cost revenue," said Brandon senator Tom Lee.

On other topics, Bush is proposing creation of a $40 million contingency fund to respond to any "urgent economic and domestic security priorities that may arise." He's calling for workers compensation reform and for a cap on non-economic medical malpractice damages.

The speech wrapped up with a nod to marriage, saying "love" is the strongest need in our society. In his words, "I ask you to join me in using your own 'bully pulpits' to help nurture families and communities through love."

The legislative session is supposed to end in early May, but quick solutions to the budget problems hardly seem likely.

Should the legislature decide to send class size and high-speed rail back to voters, the cost of a special statewide election would be about $10 million.

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

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