Paul Renner keys in on fiscal cliffs to boost economic mobility at Florida Chamber summit

by | May 23, 2024

House Speaker Paul Renner, speaking at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2024 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit, emphasized the need to eliminate fiscal cliffs—sudden losses in public assistance due to minor income increases—and discussed legislative reforms and broader initiatives to improve economic mobility.

House Speaker Paul Renner drew attention to the importance of eliminating fiscal cliffs on Thursday during his address at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2024 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit.

Renner identified these cliffs—sudden losses in public assistance benefits triggered by minor income increases—as a significant impediment to economic mobility. In the realm of childcare, he highlighted how a small raise can result in a loss of childcare benefits for single parents and low-income families. Current policies, he noted, can cause parents to lose their children’s health coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) if their income surpasses a certain threshold.

“There’s a cliff out there, and oftentimes it’s created by government in an effort to try to help people with public assistance, we create this enormous regressive tax, so it doesn’t make logical sense for people to want to work their way out of poverty,” he said. “You have a situation where a parent gets a great opportunity for a job promotion, but in doing so they’re going to lose their child’s health care on the CHIP program, because of the eligibility starts to drop off with that extra dollar.”

Enacted legislative reforms have introduced more flexibility, ensuring that benefits taper off gradually instead of being abruptly cut. Lawmakers last year reformed the Florida Kidcare program with Senate Bill 246, introduced by Sen. Alexis Calatayud, raised the income eligibility threshold for subsidized health insurance from 200 percent to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. The measure allows benefits to gradually decrease, preventing families from losing coverage abruptly as their income increases.

“We stepped in and said look, we’re going to tier this out,” Renner said. “You can get a job promotion and not lose your kid’s health care; you can continue working. We did that in year one and that is still working its way through and needs a waiver from the federal government, but that’s an example of overcoming those cliffs.”

Renner also addressed broader efforts to improve economic opportunities, particularly through education reform and occupational licensing. He advocated for early literacy programs and increased funding for early intervention. Ensuring that students are proficient in reading and math by the third grade is crucial for their long-term educational and career success, he argued.

“Even in Florida, that’s ranked number one [in education], we see that over 40 percent of kids are not on grade level when they reach the third grade in reading,” said Renner. “What we know about that is if you don’t hit grade level by the third grade, your future in education — but also your future in in the workforce — flatlines.

On the subject of occupational licensing, Renner outlined measures to reduce barriers to workforce entry. These include recognizing out-of-state licenses and waiving local business taxes for veterans and new residents, designed to facilitate smoother transitions for workers moving to Florida. Renner framed his initiatives as both economically necessary and morally imperative.

“Supporting economic mobility and removing barriers to prosperity is the right thing to do,” he stated.


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