THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA: Crist to unveil gaming idea for solving budget logjam

Apr 22, 2009

With budget talks stalled between the House and Senate, Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to unveil a plan Wednesday afternoon that will provide several hundred million dollars more this year from expanded gambling by the Seminole Tribe.

Crist spoke tentatively about the proposal, but suggested the extra up-front cash could break the logjam between House and Senate leaders that ground into its third day Wednesday.

“I think the news that we might be able to share…could be helpful to that process,” Crist said. “It should be, in terms of giving more options to both the House and Senate.”

The Republican governor also said he thought the injection of more gambling dollars could blunt rising talk among lawmakers and lobbyists that leaders are thinking of curtailing efforts to craft a budget and instead return after the scheduled May 1 adjournment for a week or two of special session.

Crist said his proposal should be carefully weighed by leaders divided by dueling budget approaches, with the Senate promoting a $1 billion cigarette tax increase and the House endorsing $500 million in fee hikes and deeper spending cuts.

“Until after that and a good, smart, thoughtful evening, we ought to just keep working,” Crist said of his call to consider using more gambling cash.

Although Crist acknowledged the Seminole money would only be a one-year fix, it would still work.

“We need the money now, point one,” Crist told reporters. “And in the out-years we hope for a recovery, point two.”

Already, though, House members were sounding skeptical.

“It may sound tempting, but borrowing a billion dollars from the Seminole Tribe is not good policy,” said House Minority Leader Adam Hasner.