With Florida in a budget hole, stop digging
Former governor and Sen. Bob Graham provides advice for lawmakers set to embark on a special session to cut more than $1-billion from the budget. In an op/ed for the St. Petersburg Times today, he offers several points:
The first is to heed the adage that when you're in a hole, stop digging. Earlier this year, the Legislature put a proposed constitutional amendment to slash local property taxes. That may look good on the surface, but consider the fine print. Under that amendment, Florida public schools would lose $7-billion over the next five years.Last week, teachers and students won a reprieve when a Florida circuit court struck the amendment from the ballot. Rather than spending more taxpayer dollars to appeal the decision or using valuable time in the October special session to revise the amendment, the Legislature should defer it to a better fiscal climate or at least develop a credible plan to hold public schools harmless from its impacts.
Second, we must jump start long-term economic growth. From 1985 to 1990, Florida's average per capita income was 100.3 percent of the national average. By the 2000 to 2005 period, our average was only 96.4 percent. Had we not experienced that drop, Florida families would have earned, on average, almost $4,000 more each year. The governor and Legislature should commit to policies designed to return Florida families to an above national average per capita income - and the best way to do that is to provide our public schools and universities with the financial support they need.
Third, we must evaluate past revenue reductions. Many of the tax breaks enacted over the last decade were justified as necessary to stimulate economic growth. Those particular cuts cost the state $2.5-billion last year alone. Given the current state of Florida's economy and the slide in relative per capita income, the Legislature should repeal any tax cuts which do not more than pay their way in verifiable economic growth.
Read the complete piece here.