Scott Still Optimistic on Tax Cuts, But Time's Running Out
Around the State
Gov. Rick Scott, who pushed for property and business tax cuts throughout his campaign and during his first few months in office, said Tuesday he is sure the cuts will make their way into the budget.
A deal on budget allocations reached earlier Tuesday by the House and Senate, however, does not include his plans for business or property tax relief. In fact, the deal leaves out the Senate’s plan to include Florida’s water management districts in the budget and provide $210.5 million in property tax cuts, one of the main differences from the original House budget.
“I'm confident with the House and Senate we have that we'll get tax reductions, because everybody understands this is about jobs, it's about putting our state back to work. Part of putting our state back to work is making sure we reduce the size of government, the cost of government, and put money back in taxpayers' hands, that's what's going to create private-sector jobs,” Scott said.
But with less than two weeks to go before the scheduled end of the regular legislative session, lawmakers appear to have resolved the main conflicts over the budget. Legislators say they have toiled over ways to fill the state’s $3.8 billion budget shortfall, and produced drastic cuts and are nearly tapped out of places to trim.
A bill that would have reduced the business income tax from 5.5 percent to 4.5 percent next year came up briefly in a Senate committee Monday before it was tabled. The measure would have produced $330 million in tax cuts.
“I don’t think we’re ready to look for another $330 million this week,” Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said Monday.
Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, the Senate's chief budget negotiator, publicly sparred with House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, over the budget as late as Monday, criticizing what he called Cannon's "stunts" and "gamesmanship" over the negotiations. But now that a deal is in place, the insertion of any tax cuts looks less and less likely.
"There are some continuing discussions of (the tax cuts), but I would tell you it's not a significant priority for us," Alexander said.
For his part, Scott has been prompting lawmakers to act, reminding them of the “most conservative Legislature” label that has been bestowed on them after the 2010 Republican-wave election in remarks to the media last week. After the election Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, boasted of “the most conservative Senate” in several years.
That election, though, also produced a veto-proof supermajority for the GOP in both chambers. Legislators have proven they are not afraid of moving ahead with veto overrides, calling a special session in November to overturn several gubernatorial vetoes, and overturning yet more during the current regular session.
Those overrides turned back the work of Republican-turned-independent former Gov. Charlie Crist, and it remains to be seen whether the Legislature can produce the votes needed to override a potential budget veto from a staunch conservative like Scott.
Scott has refrained from saying whether he would veto the budget if it doesn’t include enough tax cuts, and declined to say so again Tuesday.
“I’m confident that the right thing will happen. We’re going to reduce the size of government, the cost of government, and we’re going to make sure that we’re going to get taxpayer dollars back in taxpayer hands through tax reductions,” Scott said, when asked if he would veto the budget if it doesn’t include tax cuts.
Reach Gray Rohrer at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.