Consumer eViews
         FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

         Volume 5, Number 17, April 25, 2008
This week we enjoyed the 38th Earth Day at the Capitol in celebration of the beautiful state in which we live. From the Panhandle to the Keys, Floridians love the beauty of our beaches, trails, rivers and hills. Earth Day raises awareness of the ongoing need to protect these natural places. The theme for this year’s day was Celebrating Environmental Citizenship in Our Community, At Home, At Work and At School.

The Departments of Environmental Protection and Education partnered with a number of federal, state, local and community organizations to host booths, exhibits and informational programs during Earth Day at the Capitol.

Visitors helped sew oyster mats for environmental oyster bed restoration, received recipes for green cleaning supplies, learned to compost from yard and kitchen scraps, and viewed exhibits from DOE's Learn and Serve student service learning projects from around the state.

The celebration of Earth Day recognizes the important role education and science can play in environmental protection. The first official Earth Day was held in 1970 with the mission of uniting the world toward a common cause of environmental protection and conservation.

Earth Day makes us aware that concern about our environment and conservation of our natural resources are the responsibility of every one of us. Florida citizens and visitors love what Florida offers, from the array of recreational possibilities to a soothing view of the sun setting through the trees. Let's work together to keep it ecologically sound and environmentally healthy by making every day earth day!


CFO SINK SPEAKS AT THE FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL'S 115th RECRUIT CLASS GRADUATION

On Thursday, CFO Sink was the keynote speaker at the Florida Highway Patrol’s 115th recruit class graduation. Thanking them for their sacrifices, she praised the FHP’s mission of protecting Floridians through service, education, and enforcement.

The 115th recruit class consisted of 37 men and five women. Recruits must endure a 30-week training session, an extensive application process, and relocate upon completion of the program.


CFO WELCOMES BROWARD DAYS DELEGATION

Florida CFO Alex Sink joined more than 200 Broward Days participants on the eve of their 20th Annual two-day event that brings county leaders, citizens and business leaders to Tallahassee to advocate for the regions’ concerns.

CFO Sink congratulated the group on the transformation of Broward County over the last several decades from what was primarily a resort and retirement-based economy to a diverse business community with home grown companies such as Blockbuster, AutoNation and JM Family Enterprises, just to name a few.

“Broward County was once known almost exclusively for Annette Funicello and its affordability for retirees from our northern states,” said Sink. “Thanks to the vision of leaders like many of you in this room, today it is a thriving multicultural business community and boasts a thriving urban downtown with housing, arts, entertainment and shopping venues, and a strong business community.”

The crowd responded enthusiastically to the CFO’s report on the importance of Florida’s marine industries to the region, which is forecast to become the n
umber one cruise ship port of call within the decade and is currently among the busiest ports in the U.S. for ethanol and other fuels.

The CFO was thanked for her service to Florida, particularly for her work on reducing the looming CAT Fund assessments that Floridians are on the hook for when the next big hurricane strikes.


STATE FIRE MARSHAL'S TRAINING FOR FLORIDA’S VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS

The temperature hovered at near 39 degrees as 150 volunteer firefighters from all over the State of Florida gathered on April 16, 2008, in the auditorium of the Florida State Fire College in Ocala to kick off Volunteer Week. All the classes that day started in the warmth of the classroom; however, by the time Vehicle Extrication, Fire Safety and Survival Techniques, and Basic Fire Ground Skills moved outside, the weather was beautiful and continued that way through the entire event.

Instructors shared information about the tragic death of two volunteer firefighters in the Colorado wildfires last week which seemed to set the tone that safety and protection of our own were key for the week.

Dave Casey, Superintendent at the Fire College said; “Our goal is to provide training in a safe environment and that this message is taken back to the local departments. Volunteers serve tirelessly in their communities and the 15th annual event gives us a chance to give back to them with the free training.”

Participants in Course Delivery, Clandestine Drug Lab Awareness, and a new class dealing with Rehab Operations came from as far north as Escambia and Nassau Counties and as far south as the Florida Keys. Patrick Garvey, Asst. Chief of the Brent Fire Department in Escambia County praised the State Fire Marshal and the efforts of the Florida State Fire College. “Our department has participated in Volunteer Weeks now for a number of years and as usual, the training was great and we really appreciated the safety theme.”


SECOND ANNUAL FLORIDA SHERIFFS' DAY AT THE CAPITOL

The Florida Sheriffs Association gathered at the Capitol on Thursday to display a selection of high-tech equipment used to protect the citizens of Florida. A mobile command center, a hazardous device robot, an all-terrain armored vehicle for SWAT deployment, an airboat, motorcycles and other assorted gear were available for inspection.

Sheriffs from all over the state were representing their counties and taking time to discuss legislative issues.


Money-Smart Idea of the Week

Idea: Replace your old "heat bulbs" with CFLs

Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFLs) bulbs, which use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer. You can save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime. CFLs produce about 75 percent less heat, so they're safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling. CFLs are now available in a variety of styles, shapes and sizes, to fit in almost any fixture, indoors and outdoors, including floodlights and dimmable bulbs. And with increased production, prices have come down.

Make it a habit to replace an old "heat bulb" with a CFL - it makes sense to save energy and money.

For more financial savings tips click here: http://www.myfloridamoney.com/FLSaves.htm


FREE FORECLOSURE WORKSHOP ON SATURDAY

A free workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Lemon Bay High School, 2201 Placida Road, Englewood, on the "ABCs of Avoiding Foreclosure."

Co-sponsored by State Rep. Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte, and Florida's Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the workshop's goal is to help homeowners learn more about the importance of a healthy mortgage.

The workshop will cover the following topics: evaluating your situation, defining delinquency, identifying the players, learning how to work with your lender, understanding the alternatives to foreclosure, and what a counseling session can offer.

The nonprofit Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Central Florida and the Florida Gulf Coast Inc. will present the program.

For more information visit www.cccsfl.org.


RETIREES, DISABLED VETS CAN STILL FILE FOR 2008 STIMULUS PAYMENTS

Even though April 15 has passed, the Internal Revenue Service is reminding retirees, disabled veterans and others who normally do not file a tax return that there is still time to submit a 2007 form to receive an economic stimulus payment.

People who have no tax filing requirement but have at least $3,000 in qualifying income should file a simple Form 1040A. Qualifying income includes any combination of earned income, nontaxable combat pay as well as certain payments from Social Security, Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement.

“Don’t worry if you did not file a return by April 15. If you meet the criteria, you are still eligible for a stimulus payment. The quicker you file, the quicker you’ll get your payment,” said Doug Shulman, IRS Commissioner. People must file a return by October 15 to receive an economic stimulus payment this year.

Shulman urged friends and family members to reach out to acquaintances or relatives who may either be unaware of the Economic Stimulus Payment or unable to file the tax return themselves. “We need everyone’s help to make sure all eligible people get the economic stimulus payments,” he added.

For taxpayers who are required to file an income tax return, the IRS will use the 2007 tax return to determine eligibility for economic stimulus payments of up to $600 ($1,200 for married couples). There also is a payment of $300 for each qualifying child younger than 17.
Those not required to file a return because their income is too low or nontaxable must file a tax return to obtain their economic stimulus payment. The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 provides a minimum payment of $300 ($600 for married couples) plus the $300 payment per eligible child, if the person (or married couple) has at least $3,000 in qualifying income.

The types of Social Security benefits that are considered qualifying income include retirement, disability and survivor payments. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not qualifying income. The types of Veterans Affairs benefits that are considered qualifying income include disability compensation, disability pension and survivor payments. Qualifying Railroad Retirement payments include the social security equivalent portion of Tier 1 benefits.

People not otherwise required to file an income tax return must file a simple Form 1040A with basic information to ensure that they receive the economic stimulus payment. This information includes their name; address; dependents, if any; amount of their qualifying income (which must be $3,000 or more); direct deposit information and their signatures. Forms 1040A and instructions are available at www.irs.gov.

Eligible people, including their qualifying children, must have Social Security numbers. Also, people cannot be claimed or be eligible to be claimed as a dependent on another’s tax return. People with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers are not eligible.

There are IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers open during the week to provide assistance. To find an IRS office near you, go to IRS.gov and click on “Contact IRS,” then “Contact Your Local IRS Office.” These sites offer free tax preparation and filing for individuals and families whose income is $40,000 or less. A select number of volunteer tax assistance sites in local communities may also remain open. People can call 1-800-906-9887 to find the volunteer tax assistance site closest to them.

If people want to file their own return electronically, they can still use Free File – Economic Stimulus Payment, also available at www.irs.gov. This program provides free software and free electronic filing of Form 1040A, and it remains open after April 15.

 


ECONOMIC STIMULUS CHECKS ON THE WAY

The U.S. Treasury will start sending economic stimulus checks to qualifying Americans next week, which will pump billions into the U.S. economy, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on Thursday.

More than 800,000 electronic payments will be sent to tax filers per day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, with an additional 5 million sent on Friday, May 2. Close to 8 million people will get their stimulus payments next week.

Paulson said the distribution of rebate payments totaling more than $100 billion will be largely completed by the end of June, well before the previous goal of summer's end.

He said the economy had slowed down significantly, noting that "last quarter was a tough quarter," with continued downside risks from housing and from financial market turmoil.


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