Commentary from Florida TaxWatch
Governor Scott's Budget Proposal Makes Smart Investments, But Misses An Opportunity For Savings
Statement from Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research institute and government watchdog on Governor Rick Scott's budget proposal, released today:
"Many of the strategic investments included in Governor Scott's budget proposal for the upcoming year can help Florida be a better place for families, taxpayers and business growth. The Governor's proposal promotes his goal to make Florida the best place to get a high-paying job and raise a family or grow a business.
"As a businessman, Governor Scott understands the importance of a highly-educated workforce for business success, which is reflected in his recommendation to take per-student funding to historic levels. The Governor's commitment to increasing the state's education budget while supporting higher standards and more accountability for Florida students and teachers truly shows how critical student performance is to Florida students, their families and the growth of the Sunshine State's economy.
"I also commend the Governor for proposing to reduce Florida's Communications Services Tax, which is a burden to every taxpayer in the state, from low-income residents to the state's largest businesses. The Communications Services Tax is paid by every Floridian on their cell phone cable and satellite services, and can be up to 16.29 percent, far surpassing the state's sales tax, which can only rise to 7.5 percent. The Legislature would be hard-pressed to find better opportunity for substantial, broad-based tax relief that benefits all Floridians this year.
"The Governor's $673 million tax cut proposal contains a wide variety of tax cuts that will benefit all Floridians. In addition to the reduction of the Communications Services Tax the Governor is proposing to permanently eliminate the sales tax on manufacturing equipment, which will encourage additional business investment in Florida and help provide new high-skill, high-wage jobs for Floridians. Florida TaxWatch has long-recommended these two tax changes and I am pleased that Governor Scott is championing this relief for Florida taxpayers. The Governor also plans to pass along savings to Florida students by eliminating the tax on textbooks and I applaud his commitment to further reduce the corporate income tax and provide a sales tax holiday for consumers.
"The Governor has not yet seized the opportunity to strengthen the financial future of the state for its taxpayers by failing to include any funding for the replacement of the Florida accounting information resource in his budget. I am encouraged by his announcement that he will work with the Legislature to identify the proper investment amount, and by the strong leadership of our Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, who recognized today the importance of making strategic investments in the state's accounting system to better identify and act on efficiencies available to the state, which could save billions of taxpayer dollars. I hope that the Legislature will embrace the need to continue their commitment to increase the security of the state's financial transactions by fully funding the replacement of a 35 year old accounting system. It is also imperative that the Legislature and Governor work with the CFO to ensure the necessary checks and balances are in place to prevent wasting taxpayer millions of dollars in taxpayer money, as was done during the failed Project ASPIRE in 2007."
A full analysis of the Governor's Budget Proposal will be available in early February in a Budget Watch publication.
Florida TaxWatch is a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan research institute that over its 33-year history has become widely recognized as the watchdog of citizens' hard-earned tax dollars. Its mission is to provide the citizens of Florida and public officials with high quality, independent research and education on government revenues, expenditures, taxation, public policies and programs and to increase the productivity and accountability of Florida state and local government. Its support comes from homeowners and retirees, small and large businesses, philanthropic foundations, and professional associations. On the web at www.FloridaTaxWatch.org.