BY BUDDY NEVINS
With the announcement on Monday that Florida is sailing towards a $1 billion budget surplus, Democrats in the Legislature have a long list of projects they want.
Two of the three Republican legislative leaders already announced what they prefer to do with much of the extra money in the 2015-2016 budget year: Cut taxes.
Gov. Rick Scott pledged during his victorious re-election campaign this year that he would increase the per pupil public schools spending to a level above the previous highest level ever. That high water mark was in 2007-2008.
His statement on Monday repeated the promise on per pupil funding and added a second promise from the campaign — lower taxes:
“Today’s news of increased revenue reflects the positive steps we are taking to grow our economy. We are working everyday to make Florida the premier destination in the world for business and I applaud our job creators who have helped add almost 680,000 new private-sector jobs in less than four years. Job growth is an indicator of our economic strength and we hope to see even more gains. Because we are creating an environment where our private-sector can succeed, our economy is growing which makes it possible for us to invest in areas important to Florida families. I look forward to working with the Legislature to continue to cut taxes by $1 billion over the next two years and increase K-12 per pupil funding to the highest level in our state’s history this coming year.”
Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. R-Merritt Island, emphasized a tax cut, too:
“The modest upward forecast revisions reflect the continued solid growth of Florida’s economy. While it appears we will once again see a budget surplus in the upcoming fiscal year, it is important we don’t forget the principles that brought us here. We will continue our commitment to fiscal responsibility with every dollar as we prioritize funding initiatives and seek ways to continue tax relief for Florida’s families.”
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, didn’t mention taxes in his statement, but downplayed the revenue increase:
“There is no shortage of ideas for how this slight increase in available general revenue could be spent. While today’s news gives my Senate colleagues and I reason to approach the 2015-16 fiscal year with cautious optimism, our challenge is to remain vigilant and responsibly plan for Florida’s future.”
I can promise this:
With the House Speaker from Merritt Island and the Senate President from Orlando, Central Florida will get a generous piece of that budget surplus.