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February 27, 2009

Statewide poll suggests Floridians rather cut land conservation purchases, Everglades restoration over health care, education

TALLAHASSEE – Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) today released the results of a statewide poll gauging Floridians’ attitudes toward the current economic climate and methods of addressing the state’s revenue deficit. An overwhelming 70 percent of those polled believe the Florida Legislature should cut state spending while only 24 percent believe taxes should be raised to preserve state services. A quarter of those surveyed thought currently proposed budget cuts were too deep. More than half – 58 percent – of respondents said there is still plenty of room to further trim the budget whereas 33 percent said additional cuts will hurt health care or education.

When asked to identify an area of the budget that could be cut if necessary, a majority of those polled singled out land conservation purchases (33 percent) followed by Everglades restoration (16 percent) and state prisons and law enforcement (12 percent). Less popular were cuts to public health care programs like Medicaid (5 percent), funding for state community colleges and universities (4 percent) and spending for public schools (3 percent).

“Floridians cannot have their cake and eat it, too. In this budget climate, it simply is not possible to keep every program intact and maintain the same level of services to citizens. That fact of the matter is we are in a deep revenue hole and legislators are going to have to make some tough choices,” said Barney Bishop III, President and CEO of AIF. “The task at hand is to figure out which pocket we as citizens want to pay out of – our left pocket or right – because we are going to have to find a way to meet this shortfall.”

This telephone survey of 600 randomly-selected likely general election voters throughout Florida was conducted February 10 and 11 by McLaughlin & Associates. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

In addition, the survey measured attitudes toward Florida’s economy. Fifty-eight percent of those who responded view Florida’s economic troubles, including a failing economy and uncertain job market, as the most important issue state officials need to address. A combined 90 percent of those polled describe Florida’s economy as being in a recession (66 percent) or depression (24 percent), and 47 percent believe it will take two to three years for the economy to recover.

“Floridians clearly lack confidence in our state’s current economic condition and many people’s hopes for a brighter future have dimmed,” said Bishop. “Behind these poll numbers are real people who have suffered the loss of a job or their home; people who sit up awake at night worrying if they’ll still have a paycheck this time next week. We must take steps to reverse this trend and put Florida back on the right track.”

At the top of Floridians’ list of concerns was job security. A third (33 percent) of all respondents worry they or someone in their family will lose their job. In addition, 27 percent of those surveyed identified job creation and improvements to the economy as issues the Governor and Florida Legislature should tackle this session.

“Last week, AIF – alongside 22 other business and industry groups – presented legislators with a package of recommendations that can reinvigorate the economy and combat Florida’s rising unemployment rate,” added Bishop. “The survey results released today underscore the need for Florida’s elected officials to take swift action and put these suggestions into motion.”

Spearheaded by AIF, the Economic Stimulus Package 2.0 (ESP 2.0) is a collaborative collection of recommendations intended to immediately inject revenue into the state’s economy and create thousands of jobs. The ESP 2.0 urges legislators to maximize Florida’s limited financial resources through infrastructure investments and funding for projects that have already been “green-lighted.” A cornerstone of the ESP 2.0 is investment in “shovel-ready” transportation, water infrastructure and deep-water port revitalization projects that could provide instant and high return on investment.

Additionally, the business community is encouraging government officials to consider these recommendations when making decisions regarding any funds the state may receive from the federal economic stimulus package, including investment in information technology to replace antiquated state legacy computer systems. The ESP 2.0 also suggests important regulatory reforms that can provide direct relief to Florida’s businesses without a big price tag. Known as “The Voice of Florida Business,” AIF has represented the principles of prosperity and free enterprise before the three branches of state government since 1920. A voluntary association of diversified businesses, AIF was created to foster an economic climate in Florida conducive to the growth, development, and welfare of industry and business and the people of the state.

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