Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Legislature's school budget deal is one more defeat for Gov. Rick Scott

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers handed yet another defeat to Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday when they agreed to use state tax money and not local property taxes to pay for higher school spending next year.

Senate and House members quickly reached a consensus that Scott's plan to boost school spending to record levels was flawed because it put the cost almost entirely on homeowners and businesses that would have been hit with higher property tax bills for schools — even if the tax rate stayed the same.

Scott's recommended budget relied on local property taxes for nearly 90 percent of the school increase, noting accurately that past governors did the same thing.

His spokeswoman said it was "flat wrong" for the Legislature to accuse him of trying to raise property taxes. But after that criticism, lawmakers only dug in deeper.

Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, the House budget chairman, embraced the idea, and the end result is doubly bad for Scott because it eats up most of the $400 million set aside for tax relief.

The bottom line is that lawmakers have changed Scott's definition of tax relief. Property owners will get a tax break, and Florida businesses that would have benefited from Scott's plan will get almost nothing.

"This increased investment in education should not result in steep increases in property taxes," Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said after he and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, announced the deal.

For the past year, Gaetz has led the criticism of Scott over how to pay for schools. He told the Times/Herald last September that Scott's approach was dead on arrival in the Senate, vowing: "I cannot support this."

Under the tentative new school budget, per-pupil spending would increase by $71 next year to $7,178, slightly less than the $104 increase Scott proposed. The details must be ratified by the Legislature and signed into law by Scott — who could veto it.

Scott had proposed $507 million more for public schools, with all but $80 million paid by property owners.

The Legislature tore up Scott's blueprint and rewrote it by fractionally lowering the statewide property tax rate for schools and putting $428 million of state tax money into the school budget.

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, called it the right decision for most Florida taxpayers.

"When you start looking at all the tax cuts on the table, you start saying, what's truly the most broad-based, where you're not picking winners and losers? It is property taxes," Gardiner told the Times/Herald on Sunday.

To add insult to Scott's political injury, budget documents describe the fund shift as "local property tax relief," in bold type.

The not-so-subtle message is that if Scott vetoes the education budget, lawmakers will accuse him of rejecting a tax break for families and businesses.

But as a result, almost no money is left to pay for Scott's wide array of proposed tax breaks to help manufacturers, retailers and businesses in general.

Such politically popular annual events as tax holidays for back-to-school items and for hurricane preparedness are expected to be pared back dramatically to pay for school-related property tax relief.

The only tax cut Scott advocated that lawmakers appear ready to approve is a permanent repeal of the 6 percent statewide sales tax on equipment bought by manufacturers.

Republican lawmakers had previously trimmed Scott's $1 billion tax cut proposal to less than half of that, and they flatly dismissed Scott's demand for $250 million for a job incentive fund.

Some legislators are speculating openly that Scott could do what has not been done in decades: veto the entire budget and force the Legislature to do it all over again.

"He could," Gardiner said. "I don't know if he would take down the whole budget. I'm not sure."

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow @stevebousquet.

Legislature's school budget deal is one more defeat for Gov. Rick Scott 02/28/16 [Last modified: Sunday, February 28, 2016 10:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh

    Soccer

    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

  2. Trump reveals that he didn't record Comey after all

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI director James Comey, ending a monthlong guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in yet more controversy.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t record his conversations with James Comey.
  3. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case

    Crime

    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  5. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.