By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Gov. Rick Scott is asking for another round of steep tax cuts and budget cuts in Florida’s upcoming budget.
He released an agenda this week for the upcoming legislative session. The agenda outlines a $500 million reduction in state taxes and fees, as well as a $100 million dollar cut to state spending.
According to the Associated Press, Scott is “vowing to ‘cut government waste’ by $100 million and to block borrowing money for new roads and school buildings unless there are ‘specific’ reasons why the state should go ahead with the project.” According to The Palm Beach Post:
The aspirational goals Scott settles on are largely built on steps he has taken his first three years in office.
Scott has reduced state borrowing by slowing environmental land purchases and school maintenance projects, reducing debt by $3.5 billion from a record high $28.2 billion in 2010. Tax and fee cutting also has been a central part of every one of Scott’s budget proposals, although lawmakers have scaled back each year’s recommendation.
One element of Scott’s outline that may be fresh: He wants state agencies to reduce their spending by $100 million in the coming year. Since last October, the governor’s office says state agencies already have identified $146.3 million in cost savings, mostly through renegotiating contracts.
The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reports:
[Scott] says he will end his first term next year as the first governor in Florida history to have less public debt than when he took office.
Scott’s paper says he will not allow the state to take on new borrowing for roads, land or education facilities “without specific and accountable returns on investment for taxpayers.”
Scott’s [agenda] does not suggest where the $500 million in tax cuts will come from. The two ideas that have gained early momentum are a roll back of 2009 car and truck registration fee increases and a repeal of the 6 percent statewide sales tax on commercial leases.
The memorandum says that Scott, as a private business executive, knew that for companies to remain competitive, they had to “reduce costs” by 2 to 3 percent each year. But the paper does not note that the current state budget, which he signed in May, is about $4 billion higher than the previous year’s budget.
Scott was one of a handful of Tea Party Republicans elected to a governorship in 2010. Like the others, Scott has made a budget cuts and tax cuts the centerpiece of his economic development plans.
The cuts haven’t come without controversy, though. K-12 and higher education cuts, in particular, have gotten a lot of heat.
The state’s dramatic reduction in state land purchases has even led to a campaign for a constitutional amendment ensuring that the state has money to spend on buying environmentally sensitive land for years to come.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said back in 2011, when Scott began budget cuts, that the reduced spending on Medicaid and cuts to state employment – along with education cuts—were “unnecessarily harmful.”