February 3, 2020

Florida’s Regressive Tax System, High Uninsured Rate Would Remain Unabated Under House and Senate Budget Proposals

This post was last updated on December 8, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

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 Compounding this issue is the two-thirds vote needed to remove tax breaks, even if they are deemed ineffective and outdated.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.

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