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Does Florida Have A Budget Surplus or Deep Holes to Fill?

Advocates for working families are urging lawmakers to reinvest in critical state services. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
Advocates for working families are urging lawmakers to reinvest in critical state services. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
February 1, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It's the $1 billion question: what to do with the excess revenue generated as the state's economy continues to recover?

Gov. Rick Scott is calling it a surplus and asking for nearly $1 billion in tax cuts, with the state House last week rolling out a proposal that aimed much of that cut toward corporations.

Rich Templin, legislative and political director of the Florida AFL-CIO, says his union does not feel there's a windfall to be given away.

"You can only claim that you have a surplus when all of your needs have been met,” he points out. “We are seeing across the board, across the state, that our most basic needs are not being met when it comes to some of the most critical social service spending that any state needs to do. "

Templin adds that Florida consistently ranks at or near the bottom of the nation when it comes to education funding, and has one of the highest percentages of uninsured children.

The House is expected to vote on the tax cut package this week.

According to an analysis from the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, in 2014 the state had the lowest tax collected per person in the nation, as well as one of the lowest payrolls for state government employees.

Executive director Karen Woodall says when it comes to state services, you often get what you pay for.

"Every institution that the state is responsible for, basically, is failing,” she maintains. “Our child welfare system, our corrections system, our juvenile justice system, our mental institutions."

While many Republican lawmakers say their polling suggests Floridians are in favor of more tax cuts, Templin argues that citizens are not hearing the whole story.

"When you point out that most of these tax cuts are going to big corporations, and the expense is our kids' schools, our children's health care, our environment, and other aspects of the state, they would rather have those services," he stresses.

The Senate has yet to offer up its own tax cut package, but analysts expect it will suggest rolling back property taxes instead of endorsing some of the business tax cuts proposed by the House.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL