- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 4 (UPI) — Warning of a budget crunch resulting from a possible war in Iraq, Gov. Jeb Bush called for repeal Tuesday of two constitutional amendments approved by Florida voters.

In his annual State of the State message that traditionally opens the legislative session, he said the state could face a serious deficit in coming years, starting with the fiscal year that begins in July. He said the state cannot afford the class-size cap or the bullet train.

One of the popular amendments would cut class sizes in public schools and the other would create a high-speed train through the southern half of the state.

"I believe we must go back to the voters and have them make a decision with all the information in hand, information about the new challenges our state faces and information about the massive tax increases that will be necessary to pay for them," the governor said.

The class-size cap was passed in November. It would limit kindergarten through third grade classes to 18 students, fourth through eighth grade to 22 and high school classes to 25.

The bullet train was approved in 2000. The first leg would be between Orlando and Tampa, and the next between Miami and Tampa.

In addition to lamenting that the state cannot afford to fund those two amendments, Bush said the impending war with Iraq is another big problem.

"My friends, we cannot appreciate the State of our State without recognizing first that our nation is in a state of war," said Bush, younger brother of President Bush.

The repeal of the two amendments is not given much of a chance at this point. It will take a three-fourths vote in each of the two chambers — the House and the Senate — just to get the repeal on the ballot, and there is no guarantee they wouldn't pass again.

The 60-day session began Tuesday, and is expected to struggle all the way through with budget issues, although the Republicans enjoy a 2-1 advantage among total membership. Prospects are for the largest shortfall in a decade for the next fiscal year.

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