The 2016 Legislative Session is turning out to be a rough one on Governor Rick Scott. A few weeks before session began the Governor offered his budget priorities to the Legislature, which included a $1 billion tax cut package, a $250 million fund for Enterprise Florida, and record levels of education spending. As the session is entering its final weeks and the budget is beginning to take shape, it appears that the Governor will not be getting many of his top priorities.
Tax Cut Package
Governor Scott’s most dramatic proposal was the $1 billion in tax cuts. The cuts included permanently eliminating the income tax on manufacturing and retail businesses, eliminating the tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment, cutting the tax on commercial leases by one percent, extending the sales tax exemption on college textbooks, and including funding for a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday and a 9-day disaster preparedness sales tax holiday. Early on in the budget process the House had a tax cut package the delivered the $1 billion in tax cuts over two years, but the Senate did not include the package in their proposal. As part of the negotiations between Appropriations Chairs Tom Lee and Richard Corcoran, the Legislature will be cutting $400 million in taxes, well short of the $1 billion tax cut proposed by Governor Scott. Senator Lee has stated that $200 million of the cuts will come from recurring revenue streams and $200 million will be from non-recurring revenue.
Florida Enterprise Fund
Governor Scott also requested $250 million for a fund for Enterprise Florida Inc. Enterprise Florida is a public-private partnership between Florida’s business and government leaders and is the principal economic development organization for Florida. EFI provides incentives for large and small businesses to either relocate to, or stay in Florida. When allocations were released of Friday, it was shown that the Legislature will not be giving any money to EFI. Leadership in the Legislature criticized the plan, calling it cooperate welfare.
The last of the Governor’s proposals requested record levels of education spending using a modified school funding formula. While the idea of increasing education funding was well received, many members of the Legislature criticized the funding formula for increasing the burden on local property taxes to boost the funding. During the conferencing process the education committee agreed to increase spending by over $385 million more than the current year. They are also reducing the funding burden on property taxes from over $9 billion to $8.8 billion.
Many have concern and have been surprised with the Legislature’s approach regarding Governor Scott’s budget requests, especially considering that Governor Scott has already demonstrated his willingness to use his line item veto authority last year when he cut almost half a billion dollars’ worth of funding and special projects. With Governor Scott receiving so little of what he requested, there are serious concerns that he will aggressively use his veto powers again in a similar fashion this year.