By: Mike Vasilinda, WJHG-TV
By: Mike Vasilinda, WJHG-TV

Governor Charlie Crist is recommending the state use 135 million dollars from the Seminole Tribe’s gambling payments to the state to plug a hole in the state budget. By making the recommendation, the Governor is throwing state lawmakers a curve.

The legality of gambling on Seminole reservations has been in limbo since July when the state supreme court said the deal cut by the Governor needed legislative approval.

Legislative leaders have ruled out taking up the deal until at least March, and as recently as Sunday, Governor Charlie Crist was okay with that strategy.

“Which is fine, we can do that during the regular session.”

Yet when it came time to recommend ways to fill a 2 billion dollar deficit in the state budget, the Governor recommended using 135 million the Tribe has continued to pay to the state.

What the Governor is basically saying to legislative leaders is: accept the deal I’ve with the Indians now, or risk losing it forever.

Lawmakers meet January 5th. If they don’t bite on the Gambling deal then, they face a 50-50 chance of having to give the Seminole Tribe its money back.

“The concern I have is that if the state doesn’t do it, the federal government may do it anyway, and then the Florida taxpayers would be left out in the cold.”

And if lawmakers don’t go along with the Governor sooner than later, they’ll also have to find the 135 million someplace else, which may not be easy.

In addition to the gambling cash, the Governor is counting on raiding state trust funds and borrowing instead of paying cash for new prison beds to balance the budget.

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