Governing a state is a tough job in the best of times, and when the economy takes a plunge as it did during the past year, it can border on the impossible.
The Legislature in its recently concluded session had to face the unenviable duty of passing a budget in the face of an unprecedented drop in tax revenues. Budget cuts were unavoidable. Increases in certain fees, including university tuition and turnpike tolls, were a must.
Gov. Charlie Crists prodding to dip into trust funds, it did so without gutting programs vital to the well-being of some of the states most vulnerable citizens.
The budget includes money for adoption programs, the expansion of medical services for children, funding for hospice care and coverage for the medically needy.
The Legislature also passed landmark legislation pushed by Crist that allows insurance companies to offer low-cost medical plans stripped of mandates that drive up costs. The legislation could help many of the 3.8 million Floridians without health insurance to obtain coverage.
And the Legislature tackled the much-maligned FCAT. Reforms included diluting its importance in grading schools and setting a later date in the school year for taking it. The reforms make sense, but the Legislature must never permit the weakening of standards that students are expected to meet to advance in grades and to graduate.
Unfortunately, school funding throughout the state took a big hit. Restoring it must stand as the Legislatures highest priority as the economy, and the tax inflow, recovers.
Floridians must remember the Sunshine State isnt operating in a vacuum. Many states are hurting financially in these troubled economic times, California and New York in particular. Theiryre budget shortfalls are worse than Floridas in spite of, or more likely because of, their higher tax burdens.
Given the economic conditions, the Legislature and governor did about as good a job as could be expected of them. In tough times, families cut back on their spending, and government should, too.