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Opinion
Palm Coast Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 8 years ago

State budget priorities: education, jobs

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by: Gov. Rick Scott

After months of traveling the state and listening to teachers, parents, students, small businesses owners and families, I unveiled my budget recommendations this week which reflect the issues and solutions most important to Floridians – funding education and helping Floridians create jobs.

The dollars in this budget belong to all Floridians, and I have listened to the things they believe are important to spend these dollars on. I have heard loud and clear that Floridians want their money spent on education and jobs, without additional burdens on families and businesses, and this budget accomplishes that.

Highlights of my $66.4 billion proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 include:

• Over $1 billion in new state K-12 funding
• New tax relief measures totaling nearly $35 million in taxpayer savings next year, and over $86 million in FY 2013-14
• Injecting $300 million in the Florida Retirement System pension fund
• Reducing state spending by 4.6% — close to FY 2005-06 levels
• Adjusting Medicaid reimbursement methodologies to control soaring costs
• Efficiencies and savings for Florida taxpayers as a result of 40-year-low crime rates

This budget year, Florida faced significant education funding challenges. Florida gained 30,000 more students that require almost $200 million more in state funding. Florida also faces a $400 million reduction in ad valorem taxes, due to declining property values, and one-time state education funding. Despite these challenges, the budget I submitted to the Legislature includes:

• Over $1 billion in new state K-12 funding
• Raises per-student funding to $6,372, including 30,000-plus additional children in the public school system and less local funding due to declining property values
• The third-largest amount of state K-12 funding in Florida history at $9.5 billion

I will not sign any budget into law that doesn’t contain more state dollars for education than we have this year. I am absolutely committed to acting on what I have heard and prioritizing education funding in this budget.

Because education and jobs are inextricably linked, a number of small-business tax reform measures are also included in my budget, which gives Florida businesses the competitive advantage needed to create the jobs.

These tax reform measures include increasing the business tax exemption again this year from $25,000 to $50,000 — eliminating tax liability for more than 25% of those who pay it and reducing taxes by about $25 million for all taxpayers.

I also propose increasing the tangible personal property tax exemption for those with less than $50,000 of tangible personal property, providing an overall tax relief of about $22 million, if approved by the voters, and also broadening the sales tax exemption for manufacturing by lowering the percentage expanding businesses must increase output from 10% to 5% in order to make sure manufacturing can grow.

This budget also places approximately $300 million into the Florida Retirement System pension fund: $180 million of new state funds to fully fund the normal cost, plus an additional $120 million toward the unfunded actuarial liability. We must be serious about fixing Florida’s pension fund in order to protect our ability to fund important priorities like education and jobs. The pension as it is now is a major liability for the state; it will threaten other priorities if we do not talk honestly about its status with state employees.

Florida is heading in the right direction. We have gained 106,900 net new jobs since January with a total of 118,000 jobs in the private sector. In addition, Florida’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point in 28 months at 10.3%. Florida is doing the right things to keep the cost of living low, get the state back to work, and create a world-class education system that prepares students for jobs.

I would like to thank all of the Floridians — small business owners, job creators, parents, teachers and students — that took the time to talk with me over the past few months. It has been an important and meaningful dialogue, and I hope they will continue to let me know what they think.

To view my full budget proposal, visit http://letsgettowork.state.fl.us/.

Rick Scott
Governor of Florida

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