BRADENTON – On Wednesday, Governor Rick Scott submitted budget proposals to the Florida Legislature for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. The governor will get to take an $846 million increase in revenue into an election year and wants to spend the money on popular programs and tax cuts.
Scott has nicknamed it the "It's Your Money Tax Cut Budget." The governor has proposed $500 million in tax and fee cuts, along with putting $542 million back into public education, which was decimated by record cuts in 2011. He's also asked for $185 million for the Everglades, protecting Florida springs and other water protection measures throughout the state.
The governor wants an extended back-to-school sales tax holiday that will cost about $60 million, as well as $31 million for children services, to protect children from abuse and neglect.
Scott would also like to repeal a vastly unpopular vehicle registration fee increase that was approved to help fill a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall five years ago. That cut would cost around $400 million. $100 million more would go toward eliminating a half-percent sales tax businesses pay on their rent.
The cuts and spending total around $1.4 billion, or almost double the revenue surplus, which means cuts would be required to balance the budget in accordance with state law. Scott has asked agencies to recommend cuts totaling $100 million, but has not been specific on where he'd like to see them come from.
The governor's budget proposal amounts to little more than a wish list, as the state legislature is ultimately responsible for passing the budget. However, Republicans lost their veto-proof majority in the 2012 elections, giving the governor slightly more leverage in working with a Republican Party that he'd had something of an outsider relationship with after beating an establishment candidate in the party's 2010 primary.
Republican leaders in the House and Senate were not very specific in their reactions, though they praised the general concept of cutting taxes and fees. The governor's proposals for various water protections, however, were not met with as much enthusiasm and will likely face an uphill struggle.
For the opposition party, House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) had the following to say, regarding the governor's budget proposal:
“Governor Scott’s budget proposal begins an important conversation in the Florida Legislature about priorities," said Thurston in a release. "Unfortunately, Governor Scott continues to show favoritism to politically connected corporations and fails to look out for the middle class, public school teachers, and other hard-working Floridians who are still struggling.
“After cutting education by more than $1-billion in his first year of office, this year’s spending plan appears to be another education shell game that relies on property tax increases. Working families deserve priority attention in Florida's next state budget – not the election year gimmicks that Governor Scott is offering.
“Florida House Democratic Caucus members look forward to working with the governor and our Republican colleagues to improve spending for public education, job creation and investments that help the middle class and small businesses."
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