Gov. Rick Scott served notice at the end of last week that reducing taxes will be one of his chief goals in the 2014 legislative session. Scott unveiled his plan to reduce taxes during a speech in Orlando Friday at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation's "Defending the American Dream Summit.
Pointing to Floridas poor economy when he took office in early 2011, Scott said common-sense, conservative solutions helped turn the Sunshine State around.
I have now been in office for more than two years and we are beginning to see the results of conservative, pro-growth solutions in Florida, Scott said. We have turned around a four-year record of 800,000 lost jobs before I took office and the private sector in Florida has now created nearly 370,000 jobs over the last two and a half years. Our unemployment rate has dropped below the national average, and Floridas rate has had the second biggest improvement in the country. We have paid off $3.5 billion in state debt.
We have downsized our state government workforce to the lowest level in the history of Florida, Scott added. Why? Because the private sector is the engine to job creation not government. We have eliminated more than 2,600 state regulations on job creators. We paid back $3.5 billion in federal loans for re-employment assistance. And, we did all this while also cutting taxes five times in three years, including: the elimination of the sales tax on manufacturing equipment to help jump-start manufacturing investment; continuing to roll back the business tax, so that today around 70 percent of our businesses no longer pay it; and, we cut property taxes for homeowners and businesses.
Scott ripped tax-and-spend liberals who think you have to grow government to grow the economy and noted revenue in the 2014-2015 fiscal year would be the highest ever in Florida.
More revenue into the state means we must return more tax dollars to the hard-working people of Florida. After all its your money, Scott said. Thats why I am excited to announce today that I will fight to cut taxes and fees for Florida families by half a billion dollars in our next proposed budget. Its your money -- not the governments.
Working with the Florida Legislature, we have cut taxes year after year, even while forcing government to live within its means, Scott continued. This year, we are committed to returning even more money to the hard-working Florida families who earn it. I look forward to working with our friends in the Florida Legislature to make these tax cuts a reality.
The Republican leadership in both chambers signaled their support for Scotts proposal late on Friday.
The Senate will be happy to partner with Governor Scott and the Florida House on a tax relief proposal that will keep more money in the pockets of the hard-working Floridians who earn it, said Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. During the 2013 session, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan proposal to cut vehicle registration fees by over $200 million. I look forward to working with Governor Scott and Speaker Weatherford to make tax relief a reality for Florida's families during the 2014 session.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, also pledged to work with Scott.
When you announce a tax cut, you can count on a hearty cheer from the Florida House of Representatives, Weatherford insisted. We are supportive of the governors bold announcement today, and look forward to working with him next session. Although we do not have the concrete numbers that the Legislature will use to write our budget next year, we are committed to funding our state priorities, which will include a significant tax cut for Floridians.
House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, took exception to Scotts insistence that President Barack Obamas policies were hurting the economy, but he did not close the door on working with the governor to reduce taxes.
I am carefully monitoring todays announcements by Governor Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders that they intend to revisit the drastic tax and fee hikes they imposed in recent years on working families and small businesses, Thurston said. The Republican-crafted tax and fee hikes, including price increases in drivers' licenses and auto tags, have had a negative impact. I am sure that many Floridians may cautiously welcome the relief from Republican-proposed tax hikes.
Floridians can be grateful that our states fiscal outlook, and available revenues seem to be improving, thanks to the national economic rebound being led by President Obama, Thurston added. I am hopeful that our budget outlook will remain positive. But it is imperative that before promising tax cuts, we have assurances our state can adequately fund education, health care, public safety and other priorities of working families and small businesses.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.