BRADENTON, Fla. - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said yesterday that he would consult with the Legislature since the state Supreme Court will not revisit its ruling invalidating a gambling compact Crist signed with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
The Florida Supreme Court late Thursday denied motions by Crist and the Seminole Tribe seeking a rehearing on a ruling the court issued on July 3. The court ruled that Crist, who is a Republican, did not have unilateral authority to negotiate a controversial gaming compact with the tribe authorizing Las Vegas-style gambling on the Seminole's land in Florida.
"What we want to do is talk with our legislative partners and see what we can do going forward," Crist said during a press conference yesterday.
The court decision places in limbo $50 million that the tribe forwarded to the state when the compact was signed by the governor on Nov. 14. The 25-year compact would also bring $100 million a year or more to state coffers at a time when Florida's revenues are declining at a faster pace than most economists anticipated.
Just last week, the Legislative Budget Commission approved Crist's recommendation to transfer $672 million from a reserve account known as the budget stabilization fund to shore up a portion of the $1.46 billion deficit that is projected in the $66 billion budget by the end of the current fiscal year, which is June 30, 2009.
Crist and lawmakers are expected to consider how to plug the remaining expected budget shortfall, now projected at $795 million, in November after state economists meet to review revenue estimates again. Crist has also ordered state agencies under his purview to hold back 4% of their budgets in case he needs to make permanent cuts.
The Legislature could address the budget and the gaming compact when it convenes Nov. 18 for its organizational session.
A day after Crist and the Seminoles signed the compact last November, then-House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, filed a petition asking the state Supreme Court to invalidate the compact on the grounds that it should have been approved by the Legislature.
The Senate, led by President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, filed an amicus brief that said: "The court must determine whether legislative ratification is necessary to make the compact an enforceable contract."
It is not clear if lawmakers intend to try to negotiate a better deal with the Seminoles. The $50 million transferred to the state upon signing of the compact remains unallocated in the general revenue budget.