Gov. Rick Scott unveiled his proposed budget for 2014-2015 Wednesday morning, which, he insisted, will cut taxes, reduce debt and cut government. Scotts proposed budget stands at $74.19 billion, a slight decrease from the $74.24 billion budget from last year.
Politics was clearly on Scotts mind as he claimed his budget proposal offered a sharp contrast" to the budgets approved by former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott in November, despite spending most of his career as a Republican. In his speech, Scott accused Crist of raising taxes by more than $2 billion.
Scott had been releasing parts of the budget in recent weeks but on Wednesday, at an Associated Press-sponsored event in Tallahassee, the governor released the entire proposal.
Pointing to his proposals to cut vehicle registration fees and reduce the business rent sales tax, Scott insisted his budget proposal would return $500 million to Florida taxpayers.
Our budget will return more than half-a-billion dollars to Florida taxpayers by reducing taxes and fees for Florida businesses, Scott said. The biggest piece of our tax cut package is a tax cut of more than $400 million by eliminating the 2009 annual motor vehicle tax increases. This budget will undo that tax hike and give financial relief to the millions of Floridians who are paying fees on over 13 million annual registrations.
Scott also showcased two sales tax holiday proposals which he called significant: a 10-day back-to-school holiday and a 15-day hurricane supplies holiday. These two sales tax holidays will save Florida families more than $82 million as they buy hurricane and school supplies, Scott said.
Throwing a jab at Crist, Scott contrasted their records on debt. During the last four years before we took office, state debt increased by $5.2 billion, Scott said. But over the last three years, we have reduced state debt by $3.6 billion. This budget goes even further -- paying down another $170 million in state debt.
Saying his budget cut $287 million in government waste, Scott bashed Crist again, insisting his proposal pays back money the previous administration raided from the Budget Stabilization fund.
Turning to education, Scott noted the budget sent record-setting total operating funding to Florida schools. Scott also praised Floridas teachers and noted the Sunshine State had the highest Hispanic graduation rate in the nation.
But Scott shifted back to contrasting his record with Crists. Florida shed more than 800,000 jobs in the four years before I took office, Scott said. Taxes increased, debt increased and the unemployment rate rose to 11.4 percent, all while hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost. Florida was in a hole and, for four years, there was just more digging. Scott insisted Florida was not competitive for big job projects under Crist.
Today that has all changed, Scott said. Unemployment is down to 6.2 percent. We have added more than 462,000 new private-sector jobs. We have paid down debt and cut spending and our real estate market is on the rebound.
Scott insisted, Were headed in the right direction.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.