Politics: Polls Show Varied Outcomes as Floridians Begin Early Voting
Florida will hold its 2010 primary elections on August 24, 2010, but early voting began on August 9. Early voting apparently continues to gain in popularity. For example, in Leon County, home of the state capital, 3,560 voters turned out in the first week of early voting, a 134-percent increase over the number of people who voted in the first week of early voting in the 2008 primaries.
With hotly contested primary races for U.S. Senate in the Democratic Party and for governor in the Republican Party, new polls are being released on an almost daily basis by polling firms, media outlets, and interest groups.
Polls of registered conducted for Florida newspapers and television stations by Ipsos Public Affairs from August 6 – 10, 2010, indicate that all of the races are close. According to the Ipsos polls, businessman Rick Scott leads Attorney General Bill McCollum by 10 points in the Republican primary for governor. In the general election, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has a four-point lead, if Mr. McCollum is on the ballot, but is behind by one point if Mr. Scott is on the ballot.
In the race for the U.S. Senate, the Ipsos poll gives real estate investor Jeff Greene a 10-point lead over U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-17th Congressional District) in the Democratic primary. In the general election, Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running without party affiliation, has a four-point lead over Republican candidate Marco Rubio, if Rep. Meek is the Democratic candidate and a two-point lead over Mr. Rubio, if Mr. Greene is the Democratic candidate.
All of these results, however, are within the margin of error. Ipsos surveyed a total of 602 registered voters, with a four percent margin of error for the general election questions, a 5.9 percent margin of error for the Republican primary questions, and a 6.4 percent margin of error for the Democratic primary questions.
Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. surveyed 625 likely voters for Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association from August 9 through August 11. The Mason-Dixon poll showed Mr. McCollum leading Mr. Scott by 34 percent to 30 percent in the Republican primary. In the general election, Mason-Dixon shows Ms. Sink with a three-point lead over Mr. McCollum and a 16-point lead over Mr. Scott.
In the Senate race, the poll showed Rep. Meek leading Mr. Greene by 40 percent to 26 percent in the Democratic primary. In the general election, Mr. Rubio leads Gov. Crist by 38 percent to 33 percent, if Mr. Meek is the Democratic candidate, but Gov. Crist leads Mr. Rubio by 39 percent to 38 percent if Mr. Greene is the Democratic candidate.
The Mason-Dixon poll has a four percent margin of error for the general election questions and a five percent margin of error for the primary election questions.
A Rasmussen Reports survey of 750 likely general election voters conducted on August 9 shows similar results. If Rep. Meek is the Democratic candidate, Mr. Rubio leads with 38 percent, followed by Gov. Crist at 33 percent, Rep. Meek at 21 percent, one percent favoring some other candidate, and seven percent undecided. With Mr. Greene in the race, Gov. Crist leads with 37 percent, followed by Mr. Rubio at 36 percent, Mr. Greene at 20 percent, some other candidate at two percent, and five percent undecided. The Rasmussen survey has a four percent margin of error.
In one of the largest surveys of likely Republican primary voters conducted thus far, a Tarrance Group poll conducted for the Florida Medical Association shows Mr. McCollum leading Mr. Scott by 44 percent to 40 percent, with 16 percent undecided. The survey of 900 likely primary voters was conducted from August 10 through August 12 and has a 3.3 percent margin of error.
State Budget: Florida Will Receive $1.3 Billion in Federal Funds; State Revenue Projections Revised Upward
Under federal legislation signed into law on August 10, 2010, Florida is slated to receive an additional $1.3 billion in federal funds. The state will receive $784 million in increased Medicaid funding, which was anticipated by state lawmakers and included as a contingent revenue source in the Florida budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2010. Florida also will receive $554.8 million in funding for schools, but it is not clear at this point how the additional education funding will be allocated.
The state budget picture also brightened on August 12, when the Consensus Revenue Estimate Conference revised its state revenue estimates upward. The conference increased the estimate for the 2010 – 2011 fiscal year by 1.1 percent, or $229 million, to a total of $23.0 billion. The 2010 – 2011 total is now 2.4 percent higher than the revenues collected in the 2009 – 2010 fiscal year.
The conference also increased its revenue estimate for the 2011 – 2012 fiscal year by $260 million.
Amy Baker, Director of the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said, “Overall, the conference remains cautiously optimistic. Underlying the forecast is the assumption that the extreme financial and economic stress experienced over the last few years reached its bottom some time during the spring of 2010. Months of modest growth are expected before full recovery begins in earnest in the spring of 2011.”
The new revenue estimate does not reflect any possible impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on sales tax revenues.
In spite of the new revenue estimates and expectations of an economic recovery, the budget picture for the 2011 – 2012 fiscal year will be difficult. Legislators are anticipating a shortfall of approximately $6 billion, primarily because of the exhaustion of federal stimulus funding and increases in Medicaid enrollment and costs.
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Leonard E. Schulte
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