With few exceptions, the Florida House and Senate budget proposals consist of piecemeal funding solutions that would not improve the quality of life for everyday Floridians, nor would they move our state closer to the goal of shared prosperity for all.
Both proposals fail to address two major issues in Florida: our unfair tax system, considered one of the most regressive in the nation, and our state’s high rate of residents without insurance.
Lawmakers spend billions of dollars each year on tax expenditures. Some of these tax breaks have sat unevaluated in Florida statute for decades, with no analysis to determine if their cost outweighs their benefit. Compounding this issue is the two-thirds vote needed to remove tax breaks, even if they are deemed ineffective and outdated.
Furthermore, the Legislature has not addressed corporate tax loopholes, which continue allowing wealthy special interests to avoid paying their share, while people with the lowest wages pay the greatest share of their household income in state and local taxes.
In terms of our state’s health care climate, there are 2.7 million Floridians without insurance. This includes almost 1 in 5 adults, many of whom are paid poverty-level wages but are still unable to receive Medicaid benefits under Florida’s shamefully low income threshold. Our state could free up millions of state dollars and improve health outcomes by expanding Medicaid, yet Florida leaders have refused to bring up the issue during session.
In other parts of the budget, we appreciate that the Senate has once again followed the governor’s lead in proposing full funding for the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund. Unfortunately, the House proposal sweeps $240 million into other areas of the budget, so it is likely that affordable housing will see yet another year of underinvestment.
Another bright spot in the Legislature’s proposals is that -- like the governor -- both chambers make significant investments in water quality and Everglades restoration. However, the House slashes funding for the Florida Forever program, which is the state’s primary vehicle for conserving land and preventing future environmental problems.
All three proposals include funding for much-needed teacher salary increases; however, none of them address the fundamental problems that drive teacher turnover, nor do they adequately address the needs of veteran teachers.