State lawmakers are back in Tallahassee and the 2018 legislative session convenes Tuesday morning. Legislators will spend the next 60 days doing the state’s business.
The House and Senate will meet in a joint session at 11 a.m. to hear Gov. Rick Scott give his final State of the State — a platform for him to talk about the taxes that have been cut and the jobs created in his previous seven years in office.
He gave us a preview a couple of months ago when he released his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.
“I have been proud to work with the Florida Legislature to cut taxes 75 times saving Floridians more than $7.5 billion… and have made it possible for more than 1.3 million Floridians to find a job so they can support their families.”
Scott is proposing an $87.4 billion budget. That’s $4 billion more than this year’s spending plan and $21 billion more than his first budget in 2011.
“This is my final budget,” said Scott when he released his plan back in November. “My goal is that next year is an historic year.”
But state economic forecasters aren’t convinced Florida will have a lot of extra money to spend for next year, perhaps even the next few years. While they agree the state’s economy is “humming,” they also say the state has a “structural imbalance.” The bottomline — projected spending will be greater than tax revenue, especially given the tax cuts that have been given.
The annual budget forecast prepared back in September projected the state would have a surplus of $52 million dollars. That sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t provide a lot of wiggle room when you’re talking about a state budget of more than $87 billion.
What complicates the matter is the forecast didn’t include the costs from the mess Hurricane Irma left across pretty much all of Florida.
The Governor’s Office gave a preview of Scott’s State of the State address by releasing some excerpts from his prepared speech.
“In 2010, when I ran for Governor, I promised to change the status quo and create an environment where businesses can succeed and create jobs for Florida families, and the results speak for themselves.
“Working together, we’ve created an environment where our private sector has added nearly 1.5 million jobs, our GDP has grown 26 percent, home values have skyrocketed, we’ve decreased state debt by $9 billion, and our unemployment rate has dropped from over 10 percent when I took office to a more than 10-year low of 3.6 percent – even lower than the national rate.”
Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Tax Increases
“I want 2018 to be the year that Florida voters pass a constitutional amendment that makes it harder for politicians to raise taxes. My proposal would require 2/3rds of the legislature to vote on a tax increase for it to become law.
“Some have asked if this proposal would be in effect during a financial emergency or another national recession….and my answer is clear…ABSOLUTELY.
“It is during times of economic downturn where this proposal is needed the most. It will force leaders to contemplate living within their means rather than taking the easy way out and just sticking it to the public by raising taxes on families and job creators.”
“I don’t think anyone in this room could have predicted the mammoth storm Hurricane Irma would become. There wasn’t a portion of our state that was safe from Irma. We saw it shift, turn, and literally cover our entire state- It was like a scene from a movie.
“But, Floridians came together and faced Hurricane Irma head on.
“As I traveled around the state, I heard story after story of families helping one another and communities standing together. The response and solidarity that was shown by our state was one of the proudest moments that I have had as Governor. And when I was urging people to get prepared for the storm and to evacuate, so many of you were there to help raise awareness in your communities.
“And after the storm, we showed up. From handing out water, to working at food banks, so many Floridians and many of you in this room helped your neighbors in need.
“I believe Florida has come back even stronger.”