April 10, 2017

As the Process Moves Toward a Final Budget, Legislators Must Put Floridians First

The Florida House and Senate are poised to pass their respective state budgets this week. There are major differences between the two chambers’ budgets, including a $2 billion discrepancy in their bottom lines.

The Speaker of the Florida House, looking to the future, sees population growth that exceeds the revenues that will be available to fund state services. He has consistently emphasized the need for the Legislature to reduce state expenditures before revenues decline.

The President of the Florida Senate has a couple of high-priced priorities in which the Senate budget invests, notably an infusion of funds for state universities and another infusion to address the downstate effects of an overflowing Lake Okeechobee.

Meanwhile, the demands on state services continues to grow. Public school enrollments are increasing. There are more cars on roads and bridges that need to be built or maintained. There are more Floridians in need of affordable health care. Much of the population growth consists of retirees on fixed incomes. The growth rate, by income, of pre-retirement adults mirrors the current distribution of income.

Florida has only recently come out of the recession that started roughly a decade ago. The budget was repeatedly cut during that period and has yet to fully recover.

During the post-recession period, the Legislature has passed repeated tax cuts for corporations. In the last year alone, one credit has doubled from $1.4 billion to $2.8 billion. Legislators have not questioned the loss of these state revenues.

As the Legislature enters its annual legislative budget conference, regard for the needs of a growing populace must be paramount. Balancing the budget off the backs of education, health and public safety, without simultaneous consideration of corporate tax breaks, undermines the economic development goals of policymakers and puts Floridians at risk.

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