Incoming House speaker warns of ‘deep budget cuts’ coming to Florida government programs

Florida’s incoming House speaker warned members of the South Florida Business Council this week that in order to weather the “massive financial hit” the state sustained from the pandemic, there will need to be “significant cuts to the budget.”

Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican who is in line to become the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives for two years in November, hinted that the budget austerity needed to recover from the coronavirus-induced recession would take “three to four years to get back to where we are,” but he was optimistic Florida would be in better shape than other states.

“We’ve had an obviously massive financial hit to the state, not unlike the businesses we’ve seen interrupted or closed during this period of time in COVID, which is going to create a significant challenge for us,’’ Sprowls told the virtual webinar of about 250 members of the council, which includes members of the chambers of commerce in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

“The only way to kind of weather that storm and get the state back on its feet is going to mean significant cuts to the budget,’’ he said.“ There’s going to be businesses and restaurants that unfortunately never open their doors again here in Florida, and that’s going to take a toll on the economy.”

A survey of the group’s members before the event found that 64% said that COVID-19 is the top issue facing Florida.

But, in keeping with Florida’s Republican governor and incoming Senate president, all of whom are Trump supporters devoted to helping the incumbent president win re-election, Sprowls refrained from discussing some of the darker details related to the COVID-induced troubles in the state’s budget.

For example, Florida economists say the state faces faces a $5.4 billion budget deficit over the next two years that will necessitate the budget cuts. The governor has suspended COVID-related evictions and mortgage foreclosures five times, the latest expiring on Oct. 1 and the decision has left a housing industry in limbo with no promise for what could happen to the hundreds of thousands of families who don’t have the money to pay their owed back rent.

Sprowls also avoided any mention of the state’s unemployment rolls, a number that shows signs of improving in August but which remains at 7.4% compared to the pre-COVID record lows. And he said nothing about the fate of the state’s unemployment fund, which by Election Day could run out of cash to pay benefits to jobless workers.

Legislators on the sideline

As the coronanvirus barreled into Florida, shuttering businesses in the peak of the summer tourist season and infecting nearly 700,000 residents, Sprowls and other Republican legislative leaders have left the spotlight to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

This month, Sprowls and incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson penned an op-ed addressing another issue not often touched by Republicans: a call for better floodplain management in the face of sea level rise.

Democrats have tried and failed to call for

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White House’s Meadows meeting with airline CEOs as job cuts loom

By Lisa Lambert and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will meet with major airline chief executives on Thursday as the industry braces for thousands of layoffs in two weeks, and he urged lawmakers to embrace a $1.5 trillion coronavirus aid package proposed by a bipartisan congressional group and embraced by President Donald Trump.

“I’m meeting with airline CEOs today. We’ve got tens of thousands of people that are about to be laid off,” he said in an interview with Fox News. “So if nothing more, let’s go ahead and put that package on the floor and pass that. Because hopefully all of us can agree that laying off airline workers at this particular time is not something we should do.”

The meeting, set for Thursday morning, was organized by the airlines’ main lobbying group, Airlines for America, which includes American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, two airline officials briefed on the matter said.

Airlines do not plan to offer a new proposal but will again be making the case that helping to avert airline job cuts is one good reason to pass a broad coronavirus relief bill.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow later told reporters that airlines have already received “quite a bit” of federal funds.

“We have indicated down through the months airline problems would get that,” Kudlow said when asked about targeted relief for the companies.

At the end of this month the $25 billion in federal payroll assistance airlines received when the deadly COVID-19 first began spreading across the country and around the world is set to expire.

Congress also set aside another $25 billion in government loans for airlines, but many have opted not to tap that funding source.

Companies such as American are now pleading for a six-month extension while they simultaneously negotiate with employees to minimize thousands of job cuts that are expected without another round of aid.

Air travel has plummeted over the last six months as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly 196,000 American lives and prompted many to avoid airports and planes. With a major revenue plunge, airlines have had to turn to the federal government for help in saving jobs.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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WATCH: House GOP unveils tax cuts, police funds in election agenda

WASHINGTON — House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy rolled out Republicans’ priorities of tax breaks and police funding Tuesday, the GOP’s calling card to voters as they try to wrest back seats from Democrats in a long-shot November election bid for majority control.

Republicans campaigning alongside President Donald Trump are promising to restore the country to the way it was before the COVID-19 crisis hit, tapping into the same themes of health care and infrastructure investment that have been mainstays of the Democratic platform. They’re also taking a page from Trump’s playbook by portraying Democrats as aligned with the racial injustice protests in American cities, vowing a tougher approach.

“Republicans helped build the greatest economy in a generation and the American way of life was thriving,” said McCarthy, flanked by lawmakers on the steps of the Capitol, to present the “Commitment to America.” He said, “We will do it again.”

Republicans are bracing for a tough campaign for control of Congress in the fall, needing to flip some 19 seats to take over control of the House from Democrats. The Senate has a slim GOP majority that’s at risk.

The GOP rollout comes as House Democrats are vowing to try again to pass a new round of coronavirus relief after a Senate bill collapsed last week. Democrats said late Monday at the Capitol that leadership would consider extending the legislative session into October if a new aid bill could be approved.

READ MORE: States plan for cuts as Congress deadlocks on more virus aid

House Republicans typically present their own priorities for the campaigns, dating back 30 years to then-leader Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.” But it’s especially important this year after the broader Republican Party under Trump declined to present a GOP platform at the Republican National Convention.

“We need to double down on a commitment to God and the Constitution,” said Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif.

The House Republicans’ economic priorities include new tax breaks for businesses, forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans for companies struggling during the coronavirus shutdown, and making the 2017 GOP tax cuts for families permanent.

To fight the virus outbreak, Republicans call for tripling COVID-19 testing and investing in therapeutics for treatments. Taking a page from the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, they vow to preserve insurance coverage for those with pre-existing health conditions — even though Republicans are suing to end health care coverage under the 2010 law.

They promise more money for police departments and commitments to social issues, including abortion rights and access to firearms.

As lawmakers gathered Tuesday outside the Capitol, the No. 2 GOP leader, Rep. Steve Sclaise, R-La., the GOP Whip, said, the party will “renew and restore” the nation.

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House GOP Unveils Tax Cuts, Police Funds in Election Agenda | Political News

By LISA MASCARO, AP Congressional Correspondent

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy rolled out Republicans’ priorities of tax breaks and police funding Tuesday, the GOP’s calling card to voters as they try to wrest back seats from Democrats in a long-shot November election bid for majority control.

Republicans campaigning alongside President Donald Trump are promising to restore the country to the way it was before the COVID-19 crisis hit, tapping into the same themes of health care and infrastructure investment that have been mainstays of the Democratic platform. They’re also taking a page from Trump’s playbook by portraying Democrats as aligned with the racial injustice protests in American cities, vowing a tougher approach.

“Republicans helped build the greatest economy in a generation and the American way of life was thriving,” said McCarthy, flanked by lawmakers on the steps of the Capitol, to present the “Commitment to America.” He said, “We will do it again.”

Republicans are bracing for a tough campaign for control of Congress in the fall, needing to flip some 19 seats to take over control of the House from Democrats. The Senate has a slim GOP majority that’s at risk.

The GOP rollout comes as House Democrats are vowing to try again to pass a new round of coronavirus relief after a Senate bill collapsed last week. Democrats said late Monday at the Capitol that leadership would consider extending the legislative session into October if a new aid bill could be approved.

House Republicans typically present their own priorities for the campaigns, dating back 30 years to then-leader Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.” But it’s especially important this year after the broader Republican Party under Trump declined to present a GOP platform at the Republican National Convention.

“We need to double down on a commitment to God and the Constitution,” said Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif.

The House Republicans’ economic priorities include new tax breaks for businesses, forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans for companies struggling during the coronavirus shutdown, and making the 2017 GOP tax cuts for families permanent.

To fight the virus outbreak, Republicans call for tripling COVID-19 testing and investing in therapeutics for treatments. Taking a page from the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, they vow to preserve insurance coverage for those with pre-existing health conditions — even though Republicans are suing to end health care coverage under the 2010 law.

They promise more money for police departments and commitments to social issues, including abortion rights and access to firearms.

As lawmakers gathered Tuesday outside the Capitol, the No. 2 GOP leader, Rep. Steve Sclaise, R-La., the GOP Whip, said, the party will “renew and restore” the nation.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog says officials misled Congress | Trump admin finalizes rule on royalty cuts for mining

HAPPY TUESDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.



a group of people on a sidewalk: Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog says officials misled Congress | Trump admin finalizes rule on royalty cuts for mining | Groups pressure Biden to exclude fossil fuel execs


© Rebecca Beitsch
Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog says officials misled Congress | Trump admin finalizes rule on royalty cuts for mining | Groups pressure Biden to exclude fossil fuel execs

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THE LEAD STORY: Top Interior Department officials misled Congress when they claimed high office rent in Washington, D.C., was a factor in the need to move the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to a new headquarters in Colorado, the agency’s internal watchdog found.

A report on Tuesday from Interior’s Office of Inspector General found that two officials overplayed the cost of BLM’s M Street SE lease near Nationals Park as a motivating factor in the move, as the agency already had plans underway to return to office space owned by the government.

Joseph Balash, a former assistant secretary for land and minerals management who now works in the oil industry, and BLM acting Director William Perry Pendley, whose tenure with the agency is the subject of a lawsuit, are implicated in the report.

Both men wrote in correspondence with Congress that BLM would be unable to stay in its existing M Street SE office because the cost would exceed the $50 per square foot limit set by the government.

The report found the claims were “misleading” and said that “the future lease cost of 20 M Street was irrelevant.”

Interior announced in July 2019 that it would move more than 200 of BLM’s D.C.-based employees to existing offices across the West, while putting nearly 25 of its top-ranking leaders at a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo. The move would leave just 61 of BLM’s 10,000 employees in Washington.

The move was considered a victory for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is facing a tight reelection campaign, but it raised the eyebrows of former BLM employees, who questioned why the agency would leave such a small footprint in D.C. and set up shop in a town four hours from any major airport.

But well before Grand Junction was on the drawing board, BLM was already planning to leave its M Street SE space.

“When we got that lease it was a bargain,” said Steve Ellis, who retired from the highest-ranking career position within BLM in 2016.

“Since we moved people in there, Nationals Park popped up across the street, the area’s become much more popular and built up. That’s a good thing, but it meant the lease would be cost prohibitive when it ended, so we we’re looking around at options.”

Rather than pay more than $50 per square foot, the inspector general found evidence from both 2016 and 2017 that the department “had longstanding plans” to move BLM employees either to the Main Interior Building (MIB) or another federal

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