BRADENTON, Fla. — Florida Gov. Rick Scott rolled out his first budget Monday, proposing to slash state government spending by more than $5 billion over two years, reduce corporate income and school property taxes by $2 billion, and spend significantly less in new bond financing.
In the state’s first biennial budget, released at a Tea Party rally outside the state capital, Scott delivered plans to cut the current $70 billion budget to $65.87 billion in 2012 and to $63.28 billion in 2013.
The state faces a deficit of more than $3.6 billion in 2012, largely because revenues have not kept up with growth predictions and the loss of federal stimulus funding.
Scott said his budget would put in motion his campaign promise to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. He did not explain why he presented a two-year budget, which is not required.
“This 'jobs budget’ is focused on the goal of shrinking government, reducing your taxes, creating private-sector jobs, and holding government accountable,” said Scott, a Republican and former health executive who never held political office before becoming governor.
“It’s not a budget that dabbles,” he said. “It doesn’t offer a little something for every special interest or sweeteners for certain people. It’s a two-year budget that faces realities now, rather than putting them off for later.”
“As long as 1.1 million Floridians are out of work, we can’t afford a government that runs wild with taxes, regulations, and excessive spending,” he added.
The bond amounts proposed in Scott’s budget would slash financing to its lowest level in well over a decade and eliminate bond financing for several state programs. His plan would authorize $331.3 million of debt in 2012 and $428 million in 2013.
By comparison, lawmakers authorized $885.6 million of bonds in the current budget signed by former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Scott said his budget recommendations, implemented over two years, would save nearly $4 billion by overhauling Medicaid; $2.8 billion by modernizing the Florida Retirement System; $660 million by scrutinizing purchases and renegotiating contracts; $500 million by privatizing corrections; and $270 million streamlining functions and eliminating programs.
Top lawmakers overseeing the Republican-controlled Legislature responded quickly after Scott’s speech, pledging to work with the governor to balance the budget without new taxes.
“The best way to improve the business environment in Florida is to keep taxes low and live within our means,” said a statement by Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island. “We will do that.”
Lawmakers did not address whether they agreed with Scott’s plans for bond financing, which has been used by other states to support job creation.
Scott’s 2012 budget would authorize $101.2 million of 30-year debt for the Department of Transportation’s right-of-way acquisition and bridge construction, $180.1 million of 30-year bonds for state-financed public school capital outlays, and $50 million of 20-year debt for capital outlay to be repaid by public schools and colleges.
The 2013 budget would authorize $202.4 million for DOT rights of way and bridges, $175.6 million for public school capital outlays, and $50 million for capital outlays to be repaid by public schools and colleges.
Scott did not devote any of his budget speech to education and how he would maintain spending while cutting property taxes for schools. Each year, Florida adopts a formula that requires school districts to raise property taxes, which is where Scott says he would make cuts.
The only spending Scott mentioned was $800 million he wants set aside over two years for economic development projects.
Scott gave no specifics about the kind of projects he would like funded, but warned that economic development spending would be “subject to clear-eyed, rigorous calculations.”
“In my years in business, I was known as someone who knew how to get a significant return for shareholders,” he said. “We will not give incentives without getting a very good return for the state’s shareholders … the taxpayers.”