Crist’s State of the State to Encourage Cooperation in Fla.

March 8, 2007

With a special session on insurance, a natural disaster and initiatives to make government more open and user friendly checked off his to-do list, Charlie Crist was set to outline the agenda for the rest of his first year as governor.

His State of the State speech will largely promote ideas he raised in his campaign and since being elected in November, replacing Gov. Jeb Bush. They include lowering property taxes, giving the best teachers raises and protecting the environment.

And the Republican governor will emphasize in his address that those goals can be completed if Democrats and Republicans work together.

“There is such a new spirit in the Capitol in terms of the eagerness for cooperation, the eagerness for success on behalf of our bosses, the people,” Crist said while preparing the address. “I’m very confident that our fellow public servants in the House and Senate are eager to continue on this path.”

Property taxes will be the dominant issue of the annual 60-day legislative session that begins Tuesday. There are a slew of ideas being floated with even more expected as lawmakers decide how to approach the problem.

Crist has said he wants to double the homestead exemption to $50,000 while giving homeowners the ability to keep a 3 percent cap on property tax increases even if they move. But he has said he’s willing to consider any idea that brings relief.

Crist’s list of issues goes well beyond property taxes. He also wants lawmakers to create paper trails for voting, make sure Florida is part of the global warming solution by developing alternative energy sources, preserve the environment and force judges to keep violent felons jailed when they violate probation.

He is optimistic that the cooperative tone between Democratic and Republican lawmakers during the January special legislative session on insurance will continue during the regular session and beyond.

“Somebody asked me, ‘When does the honeymoon end? When do you stop being nice to each other and working together?’ and I said ‘Never! Never stop it! Why would you stop? It’s so much what the people want,”’ Crist said. “People can’t stand bickering … They’re sick of it.”

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