Tough decisions ahead for legislature

TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Dean Cannon said Wednesday he thinks it will be very difficult to cut taxes this year, agreeing in principle with earlier remarks by Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

"If there's a way they can be reduced and still meet the critical needs I'm open to it, but … it's going to be very difficult," Cannon said at The Associated Press annual legislative planning session at the Capitol. "The top priority is don't raise them."

He also hinted that, in light of a projected $3.5 billion state revenue shortfall, he's not confident Gov. Rick Scott's plan to cut corporate income taxes is doable, though he's open to listening to it.

"If there's a workable way (taxes) can be reduced great. I haven't seen proposals yet that I think can achieve that," he said.

Cannon admitted that one of the toughest problems lawmakers face — and one for which they don't have an answer right now — is how to pay unemployment compensation. The trust fund into which employers pay is broke, and the state has been borrowing from the federal government.

Employers have seen this year's minimum unemployment rate climb from $25 per worker to $72.10 per worker. In June nearly $10 more will be added on as interest payments on the loan from the federal government come due.

"There's no magic bullet for solving that one," Cannon acknowledged.

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