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Skipping Specifics, Scott Calls for $5 billion in Spending Cuts, $4 Billion in Tax Cuts

| February 7, 2011

Rick Scott waves goodbye to Florida as we knew it.

Gov. Rick Scott this afternoon (Feb. 7) unveiled a budget unlike any in Florida’s history in scope and implication: Scott is proposing to cut $5 billion in spending from the state’s $70 billion budget and provide for $4 billion in tax cuts over two years. The budget-slashing is the equivalent of 7 percent of the budget. Budget cuts of that size are unprecedented. The tax cuts would also be among the state’s largest, and coincide with a budget shortfall of at least $3.6 billion.

But if Floridians expected to hear details on how Scott would achieve his double-barreled agenda, they did not hear them Monday afternoon as Scott spoke to a large tea party crowd in Eustis, where the budget unveiling was purposefully moved from the state capital. The budget unveiling was absent of almost all specifics, focusing instead on campaign-like rhetoric to enact “seven steps to 700,000 jobs in seven years.” Scott was more than a third of the way into his brief, 1,500-word speech before mentioning the first substantial numbers (corporate tax cuts).

It also became clear that at least half of the budget “cuts” Scott is proposing are not, in fact, cuts, but “savings” to the budget that would instead be assumed by increased costs to Floridians, especially in the retirement system of public employees. “By modernizing the Florida Retirement System, we will save taxpayers $2.8 billion over two years,” Scott said. Included in that modernization: requiring public employees to increase their contributions to the system.

By leaving Tallahassee and delivering his speech in Eustis, a strong tea party town north of Orlando, Scott wanted to underscore his debt to the tea parties across the state, and his disdain for government. He achieved both, using at times pointedly derisive language about government (“Let’s never forget,” Scott said, “that government has no resources of its own. Government can only give to us what it has previously taken from us – minus a huge cut for the government middleman.”) But tea party activists don;t pass budgets in Tallahassee. Lawmakers do. Few of them, despite the Legislature’s overwhelming Republican advantage this year, were in Scott’s audience. And aside from generalities familiar to those who’d heard Scott’s proposals on the campaign trail, he shed little light on his aims.

“It’s not a budget that dabbles. It doesn’t offer a little something for every special interest or sweeteners for certain people,” Scott said. “It’s a two year budget that faces realities now, rather than putting them off for later.”

What Scott repeatedly has been calling a “jobs budget” calls for reducing Florida’s corporate tax, among the lowest in the nation already, from 5.5 percent to 3 percent, and completely phasing it out by 2018. No state is without a corporate tax. Scott would cut property taxes by $1.4 billion over the two year term, adding up to a $4 billion tax cut in two years.

“Critics have said we can’t afford to cut taxes now. They repeat the same misguided claims we hear in Washington. I say they are wrong. I say we must cut taxes now,” Scott said to cheers, claiming that if Florida eliminated its corporate tax, more corporations would move here. Florida is among a handful of states without a personal income tax. The advantage has not translated into more companies moving here in the last few years primarily because Florida’s schools are ranked among the poorest in the nation, primarily because the Legislature is not funding schools adequately.

Scott’s budget promises to reduce school funding further, while increasing economic development funding to $800 million. Scott did not specify how or where that money would be spent.

The budget cuts Scott proposed were general: renegotiating purchasing and lease contracts and eliminating “wasteful spending,” Scott said, would save $660 million–by any measure, a large number that has little relationship with reality, as every governor before Scott has pledged to eliminate “wasteful spending” and streamline purchasing and contracting. That was part of the rationale behind the creation of Florida’s Chief Financial Officer position.

Consolidation of government services, along with privatization and other reorganizations would save $120 million, Scott said, and an additional $150 million would be saved by “eliminating programs that are not core government functions.” The two sets of numbers appeared to be the result of the same plan: consolidation and privatization. Scott essentially doubled the projected savings without explaining the difference between the first set and the second–or providing a single example of “programs that are not core government functions” that he would eliminate. A week ago on Fox News, he said he would cut $1 billion from the budget “through things such as consolidating services and things like that.”

By far the largest budget-cutting plan, however, applies to health care, particularly health care for the poor, as Scott–without mentioning Medicaid, the government health care insurance system for the poor, by name–said the system would save $4 billion over two years by being “patient directed.” That’s a euphemism for privatization, and the transformation of Medicaid into a voucher system. “This,” Scott said, “will reduce utilization of this health care safety net for the poor, provide freedom of choice for patients and significantly reduce expenditures over the long run.” Reducing utilization, however, is not equivalent to reducing needs, which are rising in Fliorida, the state with the third-highest proportion of uninsured people: Scott did not address the discrepancy.

Scott said his budget would also cut half a billion dollars from the juvenile justice system and state prisons. Scott didn’t say how. But Republican lawmakers in the past have tried and failed to eliminate the sort of programs that seek to counsel juveniles, provide mental health services and battle recidivism.

The numbers were slightly at odds in Scott’s remarks: he promised to reduce spending by $5 billion “while returning $2 billion directly to the taxpayers,” but earlier spoke of a $4 billion tax cut in two years. That would add up to a combined reduction in services, and in revenue, of $9 billion.

Scott never spoke about the proposed $1.4 billion property tax cut other than to say he would seek it. He did not explain how he would enact it or what segment of Floridians’ property taxes would be affected, though he spoke of targeting the schools’ portion while on the campaign trail, and never hinted at the consequences on the state budget or on government services, including education, of his proposed cuts.

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26 Responses for “Skipping Specifics, Scott Calls for $5 billion in Spending Cuts, $4 Billion in Tax Cuts”

  1. Jack says:

    typical Republican, robbing the poor to give to the rich

  2. Mike says:

    A hearty congratulations to Rick Scott, the “man with a plan.” Thanks to your decisive action, you will single-handedly annihilate the future of public education while robbing educators, firefighters, and policemen of their hard earned paychecks and pensions. But seriously though, who cares about that set of people anyway? All they do is prepare children for the future, save people in times of dire crisis, and protect civilization from the ills of society. Bravo Scott! Let’s cut areas that cannot be cut! Good job!!! Your business acumen is well received by the greedy vultures who voted for you and tout your already tainted name. This will bode quite well with your past history and falls right in line for the incompetent blowhard you really are. I pray for the future of Florida and can only surmise that people toying with the idea of public service do so at their own peril…or move out of state to friendlier climes.

  3. realworld says:

    This guy should not be a governer, he should be The President.

  4. Anne Wilson says:

    Scott keeps saying he’s going to cut property taxes and I just don’t get it! Someone explain to me how the Governor who has no control over my assessed value or my county’s millage plans to cut my property taxes. If he’s talking about the school board portion that is covered by legislative limits and once again, there is nothing he can do about it. What is this nonsense? And don’t get me started on what closing parks will do for local economies and tourism in Florida.

  5. Working Class Citizen says:

    “Calling his spending plan “Florida’s first jobs budget,” Scott said he would reduce corporate income taxes from 5.5% to 3% over two years, before eliminating the levy in 2018.” Is this guy for real, these corporations make millions off the citizens of Florida, and he wants to let them operate tax free? All the while he increases expenses on the working class and steals their retirement.
    Also, Scott wants to increase the appropriation to the Governor’s Office by $343 million. If he is reducing the size of government, then he shouldn’t need an additional $343,000,000 in budget appropriation for the governor’s office. Wake up Florida.

  6. Butch says:

    “Government has no resources of its own. It can only give us what it has taken” Actually, government has a lot of resources…but not the kind that a narrow mind like Scott can recognize. Government’s resources are primarily in the form of human resources – human capital that adds value to our society through the many services it provides to the public.

  7. Justice for All says:

    Hmmm. I’ve worked in this Right to Work State all of my life. Only one employer out of three contributed to my 401(K). But if you left before five years, there was a penalty and they took 75% of it back. And then there were the boom bust cycles where my 401(k) was periodically wiped out. And since the USA is competing now on a world stage where labor and life are cheap, we will continue in this downward spiral. Governor Scott will just make it happen quicker. We knew in the 1970s, because companies would tell us, they didn’t want to move to Florida because of the educational system. Sure, you may get cheap labor, goods, and materials, but if you had kids, you didn’t want them educated in this State. All of the teachers I know and had were wonderful, dedicated people. And a big THANKS for teaching my nephews social skills that their parents didn’t.

  8. Mario says:

    I want to puke. I didn’t vote for this moron, but someone sure did. So, good luck with what will surely become Corporation Florida and … get ready for your pink slips.

  9. PC MAN says:

    Where in their brains do they see middle class people (cops,teachers,firemen,) as the source of all our financial woes ? How about the private sector upping their game to compete with government workers benefits ? They will not be satisfied until every single person is in a minimum wage no benefit job.
    In a perverse way I hope Fraud Scott and the republican controlled house and senate pass everything they want. I have no children to school, no Medicare, no senior services, no welfare (personal or corporate) about the only thing I get from the state is the ability to use I95. So if they come after kids education and middle aged peoples benefits I hope they slash senior services as well.
    Gov Fraud Scott does not have the reserves from former Gov Chiles like fathead Bush did. I’m sure he’ll govern like all republicans since Reagan, he’ll cut taxes and raise deficits.
    And why Eustis ? Were there not enough gullible hicks in the panhandle ?

  10. DLF says:

    Get use to it, we got him for a while and he about the same as what we have in Washington all ready. The government does nothing to add to the GNP of the USA all they do is find ways to spend money on things we don’t need. I see PC man is back to his name calling and lack of reason or fact, must be his iQ that stands in the way. It looks to me that everyone is going to have to kick something in to get us out of this mess we have been in the last four years, that’s life and I am willing to give my share.

  11. Justice for All says:

    DLF – What, of your “share”, are you willing to give?

  12. timoryan says:

    My dad told me about “Wise Health Insurance” or something which helped him to find a lower priced health insurance (with ALMOST similar benefits) he is recommending this to me. Any suggestion? What do you think of them?

  13. SWW says:

    DLF and yes remember who us got into this mess. Rep. gov Crist and oh yes who was before him Rep gov J Bush. Whats that tell you. I am sure now that like Obama you will not be able to find many who voted for this guy. He is a corporate guy and thats the way he will run this state. All his talk is the same as his campaign race was that he put out there for everyone to here. Thanks to the TEA PARTY for this guy its what they wanted. We need the guys in Tallahassee to keep a choke hold on him so all he can do is just talk and they will not let him get away with his tea party crap. I pay my share and have for 50 yrs so I will keep paying my share but he needs to STAY AWAY FROM MY RETIREMENT IT IS NOT HIS TO SPEND.

  14. Rob says:

    Well someone voted for this man. Stand up and be counted.

    Lets see that is a 9 billion dollar shortfall. Don’t worry the state can make it up by increasing the room and car rental tax.

    Is it the weather that makes some of these Florida voters so dumb or is the lack of intellect inherited?

  15. Kyle Russell says:

    Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it DLF?

    Who builds the interstates that all your goods are shipped on? Who provides health care for the low-income people working at the stores you make your purchases from? Who created the network of computers that you use to spread your poorly-informed ideas? Who educates the majority of post-secondary school students?

  16. DLF says:

    Kyle: wake up and smell the roses, the government funds the highway they do not build them and they do a poor jog of funding. they provide the health with our money and by the looks of the current programs they are doing a poor job of that.. Al Gore gave us the Internet and global warning but I guess his wife found that not to be true and moved on. The government does nothing but spend our money in the most inefficient manner possible ,open your eyes and tell me one program they have done well, social security, post office, health care, making our food safe, should I go on?

  17. Bob Z. says:

    It was sad to see the ignorant souls clapping and cheering for Scott when he talked about making employees contribute to their pensions. How can people not realize that the pensions were promised to those who accepted lower wages as part of their overall compensation packages? We can only hope that the legislators work on compromising with Scott on that and several other of his proposals.

  18. palm coaster says:

    DLF, all those services that you mentioned as failing us so far like our police, firemen, SS, Medicare and schools among other services and as per your narrow straight privatization cheering vision, have done 10 times better than your applauded private pseudo current health care insurance. What needs to be done here to end the budget deficits is properly tax the currently exempted billionaires, as our taxpayers pockets are exhausted by abusive gouging promoted by rhetoric of individuals like you with a very personal agenda. Sure miss Charlie Chris already!!

  19. Kyle Russell says:


    I already mentioned one thing done well: post-secondary education. Public universities and community colleges educate most college students. Additionally, DARPA really did create the initial network that led to the Internet, whether you want to pass that off as a joke or not. Whether the interstates are funded or directly built by the government makes no difference for this discussion, and you cannot deny that the interstate system is a major addition to the United State economy. Well, maybe YOU can, but anyone who thinks outside of talking-points cannot.

  20. DLF says:

    Kyle: again my question is what does the Federal Government add to the GNP, what do they add to social security or Medicare? You can say this and that but the fact is the number is ZERO. If there is a case when they do add to the GNP the private sector could do it better and with less money. Face the facts the government has grown too big and his a stone around all of necks.

  21. Kyle Russell says:


    I feel as if you aren’t reading my responses. By providing most post-secondary education, government increases GNP by providing a steady stream of educated workers into the work force. These graduates will make more money than their peers who did not attend college, and will thus pay more into Social Security and Medicare through their lifetimes. I also mentioned the interstate system. By providing a national system of highways, the government allows private citizens and businesses to ship their goods around the country, and this improves the GNP by allowing more goods to be sold in more places.

  22. palm coaster says:

    Unfortunately Kyle, we spend too much policing the world and over protecting the wealthy, to fund proper job creation, education, health care, national defense, border enforcement and the decent living that we all deserve in spite of having the greatest GNP in the world by producing domestic goods, as well as overseas goods via American corporations and funding our government and in spite of importing too much.
    By the way GDP (Growth Domestic Product) is used nowadays as actually refers to the goods generated in the USA only by American and or foreign owned companies. Not like NGP that takes all made in USA and foreign lands by American corporations. Better go by GDP.

  23. Kyle Russell says:

    I agree with you palm coaster. It’s ridiculous that the only economic superpower in the world cannot provide the same services to its citizens as almost every other developed nation can.

  24. palm coaster says:

    Kyle, is pathetic reading from DFL his beliefs about who pays more taxes and sustains our government :
    Our government income depends #1 in 43% of our personal income taxes, #2, 40% in the payroll taxes of all its employed citizens and some non citizens as well residing here and #3 only 10% come from the “corporate taxes” , followed by the 4% Excise taxes levied in gas and tobacco. Then DFL needs to do some verifying research before he comes up with these lies, about most people not paying taxes. That is why people votes the way they do, convinced with baseless and distorted data. The biggest wealth of our country is based on the taxpayers contributions to our government and is consistently miss used while generated by our large middle society so far. Sure they are doing a great job at destroying it now not bothering to envision that with the rich only, America will cease to exhist. Remember the Roman Empire and others?

  25. Butch says:

    DLF,try doing business in a country without laws or police powers and you will learn to appreciate the system of laws that the U.S. has. We don’t even question whether our drinking water is safe or whether the police will show up when we call? Why because we have public sector employees who ensure the public safety every day. Yes, government can be improved but it is ridiculous to suggest that government employees add no value to society or are worthless simply because they can’t be represented in a particular statistic.

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