George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Tampa Tr⁠i⁠bune: Gov. Sco⁠t⁠⁠t⁠ proposes $74 b⁠i⁠ll⁠i⁠on budge⁠t⁠ w⁠i⁠⁠t⁠h lo⁠t⁠s of g⁠i⁠ve-backs

By: The James Madison Institute / 2014

Gov. Scott proposes $74 billion budget with lots of give-backs
By JAMES L. ROSICA – Tribune staff
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday laid out a $74 billion question with the release Wednesday of his 2014-15 spending plan: How much of it will he recognize after lawmakers finish adding and subtracting when they meet beginning in March.The state budget is handled like any other law. It has to be approved by both the Senate and House and signed by the governor. Passing a budget is the one job the Legislature is constitutionally required to do.After presentations Wednesday by both Scott and the heads of both legislative chambers, it was apparent there were different interests but plenty of room for common ground.They all spoke at The Associated Press annual legislative planning session at the Capitol.Scott’s election-year budget came wrapped, like a gift, in the theme of how much he’s giving back in the form of tax and fee cuts. He calls his proposal, “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget.”For their part, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford presented a priority list they call The “Work Plan Florida 2014,” focusing on on safety, including heightening child welfare safeguards and improving protections for children against sexual offenders.For example, Gaetz promised to make Florida “scorched earth” for sex offenders, calling them “animals.”Scott’s wish list includes:??Increasing spending on public schools by $542 million, including about $400 million coming from additional local property taxes generated by an increase in property values.??Reducing certain automobile fees that would generate $400 million in savings to the state’s motorists.??Cutting the state’s tax on commercial rents, worth another $100 million to businesses. Scott, a former hospital-chain CEO, was quick to note that Florida is the only state to collect such a tax.State economists had predicted a $1 billion budget surplus in the wake of an overall rebounding economy.But “more revenue doesn’t mean we should grow government … we should grow our businesses,” Scott said. “We should grow the hopes and dreams of Florida families.”Democrats didn’t see much cause for support. House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale said Scott is actually proposing spending $194 less per student than in the 2007-08 budget year.“This budget is historic, all right,” Thurston said. “It’s a historic disappointment.”Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith, also of Fort Lauderdale, said he was expecting a lot of “feel-good proposals from the governor” in an election year.“Four years ago, Rick Scott spent $70 million of his own money to win the election,” Smith said. “This year, he’s preparing to spend $500 million of Floridians’ tax dollars to do the same thing.”Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor now running against Scott as a Democrat, said he hadn’t read the details of Scott’s proposal.“I can tell you this,” said Crist, who also attended Wednesday’s Associated Press meeting. “We’ve got to focus on funding education, and not just when there’s an election coming up.”On the other hand, conservatives lauded Scott’s proposal.“We welcome return(ing) some of the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars to them by lowering taxes and fees,” said Bob McClure, president of The James Madison Institute.Scott, Gaetz and Weatherford “may differ from time to time on specifics, (but) they share the same views regarding what creates prosperity and improves quality of life,” McClure 765-0807Twitter: @jlrosicaTBO