The Sunshine State’s premier tax watchdog group published 25 recommendations Thursday which it says, if implemented, would save the state’s taxpayers over $1 billion. The proposals include the collection of an Internet sales tax and the return of state lands to the private sector.
“We are constantly looking for ways to find cost savings while still responsibly funding essential government services for all Floridians,” said Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, in a news release announcing the release of the Report and Recommendations of the Government Cost Savings Task Force for FY2013-14. “Implementing these recommendations will streamline government, modernize long-overdue systems, and align public employees with the private sector in several ways.”
A handful of those 25 recommendations – grouped into five categories: health care reform, criminal justice reform, education reform, revenue enhancement, and general government reform – were highlighted by task force chairman John R. Alexander at a press conference held at the Capitol:
- No. 25 -- Replace the Florida Accounting Information Resource (FLAIR) with a modern accounting system that will provide fiscal transparency and accountability to the taxpayers.
- No. 16 – Reduce state health insurance costs by implementing a program to provide financial incentives and disincentives for state employees based on controllable wellness indicators (e.g., weight, tobacco use).
- No. 1 -- Design and implement a plan to convert the state health insurance system from a defined benefit to a defined employer contribution model. Under such a scheme, the state would not provide health plans to state workers; rather, the workers would be given a fixed dollar amount to spend on health insurance costs or other medical expenses.
- No. 2 -- Reduce operational expenditures through the use of benchmarking for appropriations and the state’s shared-savings program. Such programs would reward agencies and employees who save costs for the state, while reducing appropriations for those agencies which overspend.
- No. 6 -- Adopt both “E-Fairness” legislation and legislation to become a full member of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA). This would begin leveling the playing field for Florida businesses and begin collecting some of the revenue legally due. Any additional revenue should be used to offset another tax that is currently imposed on Floridians. Florida already imposes a sales tax on its citizens, but it’s seldom enforced. Alexander says noncollection of the tax unfairly disadvantages traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, took to the podium after Alexander, voicing his support for the work of Florida TaxWatch and highlighting two more recommendations he believed the Legislature should prioritize for implementation:
- No. 9 -- Provide resources and authority to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS) to identify underutilized and surplus state properties, to review each as to its highest and best potential, and to dispose of those state properties not being used to their highest and best potential in an expeditious manner.
- No. 10 -- Implement electronic time and attendance systems across all state agencies.
Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews or at (954) 235-9116.