Governor Rick Scott delivered his State of the State speech last week. With just a year left in his term, Scott stated that he is looking to continue to fulfill the promise he made back in 2010 to “change the status quo” and turn the state of Florida around.
During the governor’s tenure, however, lawmakers have continued to underinvest in health care, education, transportation and other public services, instead focusing on business tax cuts and sales tax holidays, which provide only a nominal short-term benefit to families.
Florida’s poverty rate and uninsured rate remain above the national average.
Scott began his speech by discussing job growth in Florida and taxes.
Scott noted that there have been over 80 tax cuts since 2010. He proposed that 2018 be the year that lawmakers pass a bill to make it more difficult to increase taxes and fees. Scott encouraged lawmakers to support a constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds majority in the Legislature to create a tax increase.
The Florida Policy Institute (FPI) opposes this proposal, as it would severely limit the state’s ability to generate sufficient revenue to invest in critical public services or deal with future economic downturns.
In addition to a constitutional amendment, Scott stated that he will push for extended back-to-school and hurricane preparedness sales tax holidays, and lower drivers’ license fees in 2018.
Sales tax holidays, notes FPI, provide only a nominal, short-term benefit to families. The foregone revenue from sales tax holidays could instead be invested in critical public services.
While tax cuts have long been a topic of conversation in Florida, Scott also brought a newer issue to light. There is no doubt that sexual harassment has quickly become a hot-button topic in America, and Tallahassee, today. Scott proposed that legislators pass a bill to protect the identity of state employees that witness acts of crime or harassment in their workplace. The governor also noted that he wants to take measures to provide free tuition to the families of fallen military personnel, state law enforcement officers and first responders.
Scott also proposed $53 million to fight the opioid epidemic in Florida, and widening the inclusion of individuals displaced by Hurricane Maria and the conflicts in Venezuela.
To end the State of the State speech, Scott tied everything back together by briefly mentioning the importance of increased educational funding and environmental protection, though there was not much deliberation.
While the governor’s proposed budget includes nearly across-the-board increases in funding, it follows seven years of draconian tax cuts and underinvestment in public services. Further, although Scott touts his push for additional funding to fight the opioid epidemic, Florida has yet to expand Medicaid to the more than 500,000 people stuck in the coverage gap.
FPI will continue to advocate for a state budget that invests in public education, transportation, infrastructure and health care.