Monday, December 15, 2008

Dec. 15: Hands Off the Trust Funds, Florida Pols

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Like little kids who can't keep their hands away from the cookies, it seems the Florida Legislature, and possibly Gov. Charlie Crist, can't resist the lure of a trust fund in trying to prop up the state budget.

It's happened before, and now it's happening with a trust fund that honors the late Gov. Lawton Chiles. The fund was created with money the state gained in a settlement with Big Tobacco - a settlement from a fight Chiles spearheaded against the tobacco companies. It supports children's health care.

Earlier this year, the state borrowed from the fund with the Chiles family's permission - provided the money would be paid back. Not only hasn't that happened, but now the state wants more.

Rhea Chiles, the widow of Lawton Chiles, and their son, Lawton "Bud" Chiles III, are rightly threatening to take the state to court; they also say that if Crist and the legislature continue to raid the fund, they will ask that Lawton Chiles' name be taken off. What a terrible legacy that would be, 10 years after his death.

Here's hoping it doesn't come to that. Crist, who got elected to office making voters believe he knows better, needs to listen to the Chiles family and get his and state lawmakers' hands off those funds and other trust funds. This may be the holiday season, but trust funds aren't holiday treats.

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