Volume 6 Number 12 March 20, 2009

Dear Floridian:

For the last two years as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, I have worked to make Tallahassee more open and accountable to Florida’s taxpayers.

That’s why this week (which was Sunshine Week in Tallahassee) I was pleased to stand with Governor Crist and unveil another tool – the Sunshine Spending website. Sunshine Spending gives Florida’s citizens the ability to type the name of a company, or vendor, and see just how much that vendor is getting in state money and which state agencies are paying it.

With Sunshine Spending, along with other tools on www.MyFloridaCFO.com like Your Local Government Dollars & Cents and Get Lean, citizens can check out state and local spending and be watchdogs right along with me. I hope you take the time to check them out!

Sincerely,

Alex




Alex Sink
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


Governor Crist and CFO Sink unveil Sunshine spending Web site

Sunshine Spending

Promotes financial transparency, allows Floridians to track how their taxpayer dollars are spent

 

CFO SinkFlorida Governor Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink on Tuesday announced a new Web site that will allow Floridians to track how state government spends their taxpayer dollars: www.MyFloridaCFO.com/SunshineSpending. The launch of the Sunshine Spending Web site comes during Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of Florida’s dedication to making state and local government more accessible to the public.

“Now more than ever, as Florida faces historic economic challenges, the people of Florida need to know that state agencies are investing their hard-earned taxpayer dollars responsibly,” Governor Crist said. “The Sunshine Spending Web site is a great first step that will help citizens hold state government accountable.”

“For the last two years, I have worked to make Tallahassee more open and accountable to Florida’s taxpayers,” said CFO Sink. “I am pleased that Floridians will be able to know exactly who is spending and who is getting their tax dollars, and glad we were able to provide this transparent step at no extra cost to Floridians.”

Updated every night, the Sunshine Spending Web site is an important step toward increased fiscal accountability in state spending. The site allows citizens to conduct a basic search for vendors and other recipients of state funds by the first part of the vendor’s name. It was created using existing resources, with no additional tax dollars spent to create or maintain it.

CFO Sink, Governor Crist and Lt. Governor Kottkamp

The Sunshine Spending Web site was produced by the Department of Financial Services in conjunction with representatives from the Governor’s office, Americans for Tax Reform and the James Madison Institute.

Currently, most state agencies include a list of contracts of at least over $25,000 in the open government section of their Web site. In conjunction with this information, the Sunshine Spending Web site will allow citizens to access additional information about payments to vendors.

On Sunshine Spending, citizens can access the following information:

For the Sunshine Spending Web site, please visit: www.MyFloridaCFO.com/SunshineSpending or www.FLGov.com/SunshineSpending.


CFO Sink opposes use of credit scoring by auto insurance companies

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink on Thursday held a press conference to oppose the use of credit scoring CFO Sink and Sean Shawwhen determining the rates and availability of auto insurance for Floridians. CFO Sink was joined in her opposition to the use of credit scoring by Sean Shaw, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate.

“Right now, people whose credit is reduced or who have been hit hard financially could see their auto insurance rates jacked up or find they are not even able to get coverage -- and that’s just wrong,” said CFO Sink. “Because of the challenging times everyday Floridians are facing, I am opposed to the use of credit scoring when determining the availability and cost of auto insurance. We should not be kicking Floridians when they are down.”

Currently, consumer credit scores are used by many auto insurance companies for underwriting purposes, including setting rates and determining coverage eligibility. CFO Sink noted today that she has been unimpressed by explanations from auto insurance companies about why they need to use credit scores, especially in these challenging economic times.

“Floridians are being hit hard, creating more debt, and even people who are using credit responsibly are seeing their limits decreased because of the economic times,” CFO Sink continued. “I don’t think its right that those same Floridians will now see a rate hike on their auto insurance despite no change in their driving record.”


CFO Sink to declare April Financial Literacy Month and present special award to Florida organization

Quarterly meeting of the Financial Literacy Council to follow

Financial Literacy CouncilIn an ongoing effort to increase financial literacy and help Floridians make better financial decisions, CFO Sink will present a resolution to the Financial Literacy Council declaring April Financial Literacy Month. The Florida Prosperity Campaign will receive an award in support of their efforts to form a statewide partnership and educate Floridians on financial issues. The Financial Literacy Council will then convene its quarterly meeting.

The Financial Literacy Council, authorized in 2006 by HB 825, was created to study the financial problems that affect consumers, particularly young persons, seniors, working adults and small business owners, which arise from a lack of basic knowledge of financial issues.

The meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 25, 2009, from 10:00 a.m. till 12:00 p.m. in the Cabinet Meeting Room on the Lower Level, The Capitol, Tallahassee, Florida.

The Financial Literacy Council includes representatives from the financial and real estate industry, AARP Florida, the Florida Council on Economic Education and other fields. To learn more about the Financial Literacy Council, visit www.myfloridamoney.com.


CFO Sink congratulates the 2009 Women’s Hall of Fame inductees

CFO Sink addresses 2009 Women's Hall of Fame inducteesCFO Alex Sink congratulates Louise Courtelis, Sen. Gwen Margolis and Betty Sembler for their induction into the Florida’s Women’s Hall of Fame sponsored by the Florida Council on the Status of Women and the Attorney General’s Office.

Speaking at the annual ceremony in the Capitol courtyard, CFO Sink thanked the 2009 inductees for their service and dedication to improving the lives of all Floridians and for their contributions as business women to Florida’s economy.

”The Florida Women’s Hall of Fame is proudly on display right outside the doors of my office,” said Sink. “Everyday, on my way to work, I pass by the nearly 80 pictures of these inspiring Floridians and I am reminded of all they’ve done to build a platform which allows for my public service role.”

The CFO applauded the FCSW for their first annual Women’s Forum to be held May 12 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. “In today’s challenging economic environment, this unique forum for women to develop new business strategies and share their formulas for success couldn’t come at a more important time,” Sink added.

The one-day, non-partisan education and networking event is designed to bring together women from across Florida to tackle the issues that matter most and empower them to impact meaningful change in their personal and professional lives. For more information on this event, visit www.FlConferenceforWomen.org.


Florida Housing Help

CFO Sink's Florida Housing Help initiative joins Pasco and Martin county organizations to host foreclosure workshops

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and the Department of Financial Services continued the efforts of the CFO’s Florida Housing Help initiative this week to aid Floridians in the current foreclosure crisis that has affected families across the state. Workshops were held in Holiday and Stuart to educate homeowners about the foreclosure process, and bring together resources to help deal with the crisis.

Homeowners in need of foreclosure assistance were greeted by seven lenders, eight vendors and 15 certified counselors of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at the Community United Methodist Church in Holiday last weekend. Florida Senator Mike Fasano, shown to the right, Pasco County Commissioner Pat Mulieri, and Mayor Richard Rober of New Port Richey were also on hand to speak with homeowners and voice their concerns about this ongoing crisis. Pastor Dan Campbell was encouraged by the partnership to assist homeowners during these tough financial times.

Martin Coutny meeting

Stuart City Hall was also overflowing with residents on March 18 when more than 100 people came from Martin and St. Lucie counties to learn about the foreclosure process. The event was organized by Congressman Tom Rooney’s office who partnered with representatives of Chief Financial Officer Sink’s Florida Department of Financial Services, Martin County government and sheriff’s office, Florida Attorneys Saving Homes (FASH), HUD counselors, and accredited counseling agencies among other mortgage and banking association representatives.

For more information on upcoming Florida Housing Help workshops in your area please visit our Web site at www.myfloridacfo.com/FloridaHousingHelp.

 

My Family CFO

Are you the chief financial officer of your family? Are you always looking out for the best deals, wise investments and smart moves for your family's financial security?

As your family's fiscal watch dog, keep an eye on this column for money-smart ideas from the Chief Financial Officer of Florida, Alex Sink.

If you have a creative way to be fiscally smart, share it with us for this column!

MyFamilyCFO@MyFloridaCFO.com

Idea: Stimulus package gives unemployed workers potential COBRA help

The U.S. Department of Labor just released details about how unemployed workers can take advantage of subsidies offered in President Obama's stimulus package to help them stay on their former employer's health insurance.

As we stated in last week's column on this topic, workers often can extend their employer-sponsored health insurance through the federal law known as COBRA, but it can be prohibitively expensive because the worker has to pay the full cost of coverage. But the good news is the stimulus package gives eligible workers a 65 percent subsidy for nine months to offer some relief and reduce the ranks of the uninsured.

Employers have until April 18 to inform potentially eligible former workers that they might qualify for COBRA assistance including those individuals who initially turned down the option.

Under the provisions, eligible employees have 60 days after the notice is provided to elect COBRA.  Eligibility would include those who involuntarily lost their jobs between September 1, 2008, and the end of 2009 and do not earn more than $125,000 as an individual or $250,000 per couple. 

More information on federal COBRA is available from the U.S. Department of Labor at (866) 444-3272 or www.dol.gov/cobra.


Saving energy, saving money  Energy tips for Florida families - these actions represent ways to behave kindly toward Mother Earth, AND save money as well as energy. These tips are presented by CFO Alex Sink's science advisor Meg Lowman, Ph.D., on the faculty at New College of Florida. Dr. Lowman has written numerous award-winning books and is an expert on the rainforests of the world.

Eating Wisely for Ecology and for Economics

It is not surprising that “eating local” usually offers a diet that emits less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The less distance that your food travels, the lower carbon dioxide emissions are pumped into the atmosphere. In addition, local foods are usually cheaper, because items imported from a long distance tend to add transportation costs to the price tag. So, the next time you go to the grocery store, pay careful attention to the labels for “Florida-produced” because those food items are likely to be less expensive and have a smaller energy footprint.

In addition to “eating local”, it is also wise to learn about the relative amounts of carbon dioxide required to produce different foods that we eat. By weight, here are a few comparisons: A pound of beef emits five times more carbon dioxide to produce than the same portion of poultry or chicken, and almost one hundred times more than a pound of fresh vegetables. Eggs emit almost twice the carbon dioxide to produce than rice, but still only a fifth of the amount emitted to produce the same weight in beef.

Depending on where you live and the distance traveled, you can lower the total carbon dioxide emissions for a dinner of steak, break, baked potatoes, carrots, fried onions and milk by 80 percent if you replace the beef with cod fillet! So, be kind to both your pocketbook and to planet Earth – eat locally, especially lots of vegetables!