Politics

Florida TaxWatch to Legislators: Enforce Internet Sales Tax, Privatize State Lands

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: January 18, 2013 3:55 AM
Florida TaxWatch
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.
“After much hardship and economic loss over the last few years, Florida is finally moving forward to recovery,” Alexander said. “In challenging and uncertain times as we are still in, we must continue to strive for reforms that will increase government efficiency and accountability, which will save taxpayers money. I believe that this report moves us significantly forward.”

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.
“While many lands are used for essential purposes, including conservation, the state also owns numerous properties that are not needed by state government,” Hays said. "[This leaves] the taxpayers responsible for unnecessary costly annual maintenance and upkeep . ... If the land is not serving a useful purpose ... we need to put that land back on the tax rolls and let it be productive.”

  • No. 10 -- Implement electronic time and attendance systems across all state agencies. 
Hays said the Florida Department of Children and Families has saved $6 million over the last two years through the use of such systems, which better ensure that employees are paid for time actually worked.



Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews or at (954) 235-9116. 

Comments (3)

CPT Joyce
10:40AM JAN 23RD 2013
LOL on "No. 6 - E-Fairness". First off how does taxing internet sales save tax payer's money? It doesn't we just get taxed more. Second if lack of internet sales tax is bad for business due to competition, well then duh! This should expose the idiocy of the sales tax to begin with, not justify it! Like I'm gonna believe that the State of Florida will use "internet sales taxes" to offset or reduce the current taxs rates or burdens on the citizens of Florida...I've heard that one before. Advocate more taxes while promising...lower taxes...right...
wbp
8:29PM JAN 21ST 2013
florida tax watch recommendations with a wink at corporate profits and the diversion of public money to the private sector.
LDouglas
7:54AM JAN 18TH 2013
"If the land is not serving a useful purpose ... we need to put that land back on the tax rolls and let it be productive.”

That's fine Mr. Hays, as long as it fetches fair market value and as long at the same time, they identify land that may currently be essential and use the sales proceeds to purchase that before putting it into the general fund.

In case you haven't been paying attention, our waters are essential to our economic well being and many are in such a state that they need immediate attention. Quality as well as quantity-- which at times and in some places there is too much and other times and places too little. We need to get it right before we grow too much or the economy comes back and land prices rise again.

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