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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Governor Rick Scott's tax cuts will face big test in state Capitol



Gov. Rick Scott began a two-day, six-TV market push Wednesday for $618 million in tax cuts, and some Republicans at the Capitol who would have to vote for it are not exactly on Scott's bandwagon.

In the House, even before Scott launched his annual tax-cut Speaker Richard Corcoran and his top advisers have called the state's historic spending levels "unsustainable," mostly because of a lack of discipline by Republicans themselves, and that cuts will be required to balance the budget in a year with almost no surplus after essential needs are funded.

"Tax cuts are always possible," said House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami. "But how much appetite do we have to be disciplined financially? We've been led by Republicans for the last 20 years and we spend like Democrats."

The bottom line: Scott's tax cut proposals could face the same fate as last year. Read the background here.

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, who chaired the Senate budget committee for the past two years, said Scott's level of tax cuts is not likely without a major change in the state revenue picture or substantial cuts in programs.

"Without some good (revenue) news or substantial cuts elsewhere in the budget, that's going to be difficult," Lee told the Times/Herald Wednesday. "The Legislature's going to basically have to change its historic spending patterns if it's going to come up with that kind of money." 

Lee noted that Scott's proposals on spending and tax cuts don't include money for programs the Legislature considers important. "The governor doesn't have to allocate money for any legislative priorities," Lee said. "The governor writes a budget that essentially takes care of executive branch needs as he sees them."

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has talked about a $2.4 billion state-federal land acquisition plan to improve the Everglades ecosystem and $1 billion for higher education improvements.

Negron's office issued a statement that said: "Reducing the burden of taxes and leaving more money in the pockets of the hardworking Floridians who earn it is a top priority" and that he "gives great consideration to any proposal put forward by Gov. Scott."

Negron said Senate committees will soon discuss a range of tax cut proposals, including one the senator has pushed for in the past: the elimination of a 30-year-old tax credit for insurance companies that would cut taxes by $300 million, fully half of what Scott's proposing.

Scott did not support that idea when Negron proposed it -- and the House killed it -- in the 2013 session.

UPDATE: Scott's office said in a statement that the repeal of an existing tax cut is a tax increase. "Gov. Scott wants to cut any possible tax and fee," his office said.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 26, 2017 7:24am]


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