The News Around

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AROUND THE STATE

Crist discusses plans for state budget deficit

Florida lawmakers met Jan. 5 to discuss the looming $2.3 billion state budget deficit. The cuts are intended to be immediate to alleviate further deficit strain on the state’s $66 billion budget.

Gov. Charlie Crist’s plan depends on taking $1.2 billion from trust funds and state reserves. Half of the capital will come from proceeds stemming from a lawsuit against tobacco companies to pay for children’s services.

Crist’s plan would also include about $650 million in spending cuts, plus capital created through the issuance of bonds to fund prison construction.

Among the institutions expecting a budget cut are the Florida State Attorney’s office, public defenders offices, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, state funded public education and the state-run Florida Housing Finance Corp.

Amidst the spending cuts, Crist and the Republican lawmakers vow to take revenue-raising issues off the table until regular session begins in March.

AROUND THE NATION

Democrat politicians embroiled in scandal

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.) stepped down as Commerce Secretary-designate Jan. 5 for the new administration of President-elect Barak Obama.

Richardson and his gubernatorial aides are under investigation by a federal grand jury probing the possibility of a “pay-to-play” scandal.

The prosecutors allege they steered state bond business to a Beverly Hills firm in return for $100,000 in donations to two Richardson Political Action Committees in 2004.

Meanwhile, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s senate appointment to replace Obama’s junior senate position, Roland Burris, was not allowed to be sworn into office Jan. 6 by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Reid stated they will not seat any person appointed by Blagojevich while under investigating for his own
“pay-to-play” scandal.

However, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) dissented with her party’s leadership Jan. 6 by calling for Burris to be seated in the Senate once his documents are signed by the Illinois secretary of state.

Burris is to meet with Reid Jan. 7 to discuss the situation.

AROUND THE WORLD

Isreali troops push into Gaza, only one soldier dead

Israeli forces pushed deeper into the Gaza strip Jan. 5 in its second full day of their ground assault.

Israeli troops have encircled Gaza City and have engaged Hamas fighters who are entrenched in built-up areas.

Israeli causalities have been limited to one soldier’s death with more than 50 injured while Hamas, according to statements by the Palestinians and the United Nations, estimate their death toll at more than 530.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, along with Tony Blair and Russia’s deputy foreign minister have ratcheted up their efforts to stabilize the region and offer diplomatic solutions to stop the conflict.

Meanwhile, Israel has called “tens of thousands” of reservists to active duty to counter the possibility of further violence in the West Bank, due to firebombings in the region  Jan. 4.

“The loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern to me, and after Jan. 20 I’ll have plenty to say about the issue,” President-elect Barack Obama said Jan. 6.

Compiled by James Cannon II.