We retired Tax Justice Blog in April 2017. For new content on issues related to tax justice, go to www.justtaxesblog.org
We’ve all become accustomed to conservative lawmakers singing the praises of tax cuts nearly every time they open their mouths. Florida Governor Rick Scott’s devotion to anti-tax dogma, however, is among the most extreme cases we’ve seen in recent memory. Fortunately, it now appears very likely that the state’s conservative legislature will reject the vast majority of Scott’s anti-tax platform.
On Tuesday, the Florida legislature’s Republican leadership announced that they’ve come to a preliminary agreement on how to close the state’s budget gap. The agreement is unbalanced, as it relies exclusively on spending cuts to cope with the revenue slump caused by the lingering economic downturn. But the agreement does have one major upside: it does not include Governor Scott’s proposals to phase out the corporate income tax and drastically cut the property tax.
In recent weeks, Scott had tried to make his radical tax proposals more attractive by phasing out the corporate income tax more slowly. This change would have allowed lawmakers to vote in favor of a massive tax cut, and to put off debating the most difficult spending cuts until some later date. Still, even Scott’s less ambitious proposal was viewed by most Republicans legislators as too extreme.
The Republican chair of one key House committee referred to Scott’s continued insistence that the state slash taxes despite its weak fiscal situation as “just kind of odd.” And Republican Senate President Mike Haridopolos questioned the wisdom of Scott’s “job creation” strategy, saying “I’m in my 11th session now and I’ve had very few people come to me and say the reason they didn’t come to Florida was because of the corporate tax rate.”
Lawmakers have apparently agreed to set aside some money for corporate tax pork in an attempt to keep Scott happy enough that he won’t exercise his veto power. But compared to the multi-billion dollar tax cut package Scott has been pushing, the size of the tax cuts currently under consideration are very small.
Still, the fact that tax cuts are being debated at all while the state cuts billions from education, health care, and other vital services demonstrates how wildly out of touch the Sunshine State’s legislature is. In the future, lawmakers should undo some of these deep cuts to public services and offset the cost by raising the state’s very low taxes. While they’re at it, they can lessen the unfairness of a tax system that ITEP ranked the second most regressive in the nation.