What would you do with a $1 billion state surplus?

a- Florida Gov. Rick Scott_0You are a member of the Florida Legislature. You have a $1 billion surplus. What would you do with the money?

Would you return it to the residents of Florida in the form of reduced fees? Would you put it into a rainy day fund in anticipation of inevitable “bad” years? Would you spend it to enhance some of the social programs that have been cut during the past few years?

It’s budget time in Tallahassee. There is a lot of surplus cash in the state treasury and the legislature and the governor must decide what to do with it.

Our governor, Rick Scott, the House and the Senate all have glaringly different ideas of how to spend the money — different than most years where there is a general unanimity of opinion among Republicans.

Gov. Scott wants to use the $1 billion to reduce taxes — primarily corporate taxes. His theory is the less corporations have to pay in taxes the more they can spend on increased payrolls. And that is what his administration has pledged to do. The Senate is willing to give $250 million toward tax reduction, not a billion.

The governor wants to set aside $250 million in corporate incentive money over a three-year period to attract more businesses that pay high wage salaries. The Senate says, “yes.” The House says, “no.”

The governor and the members of the House want to increase school spending by a half billion dollars. However only 20 percent of the proposed increase would come from state revenues. The governor feels that counties and municipalities, who are experiencing revenue growth generated by increase real estate values, should share 80 percent of the increase.

The governor wants to take the credit for the increased revenue going to schools and at the same time wants local revenues to cover the majority of the increase. The Senate agrees with the dollar amount but wants the state to pay half the increase not just 20 percent.

The governor wants to spend revenue to increase state employee salaries on a selective basis, not an across the board increase which is sorely needed. The Senate and the House want a $2,000 pay raise for such employees as firefighters, crime lab technicians and police.

The governor has a new approach to financial assistance for hospitals. He recently appointed a committee to study profits generated by our state’s hospitals. He wants to place a ceiling on supplemental Medicaid payments based upon 2014 hospital profits. The governor’s approach is not favored by the Senate or the House.

The House and Senate don’t agree on how to split the $608 million available to reimburse hospitals for their charity programs.

Typically our Republican governor and the Republican-controlled House and Senate lean to favoring corporations. This session is different. Major differences exist between the legislature and the governor.

The governor’s budget met with total disagreement in the legislature. The Senate called Scott’s $1 billion tax cut dead on arrival and “fiscally irresponsible,” strong words between fellow conservative Republicans.

The House and the Senate’s proposed budgets want to spend more money on education, reducing the number of state employees — a disagreement with the governor.

Regardless of the legislatures’ proposed budgets or that of the governor, the attitude of our elected officials seems to show little respect for the man on the street. “Fund my election campaign; vote for me, but don’t ask for anything; I’m busy helping my big money contributors.”

Just look at the use of the funds directed to rebuild our South Florida water delivery system as mandated in Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment approved by over 65 percent of voting Floridians. Legislators seem to feel that they are above the law. They don’t seem to feel any obligation to our state constitution and its amendments.

Whatever happened to “We the people?”

We appreciate your opinions on this column whether in agreement or disagreement. Send your comments to (fax number) 305-662-6980 or email to MCMHoldingsInc.com. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of this newspaper, its editors or publisher.

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About the Author

Kenneth Bluh
Kenneth has been writing a column for Community Newspapers since 1989 when he first wrote about the incorporation movement in UMSA (Unincorporated Municipal Services Area). His columns cover the political scene in Miami-Dade and Tallahassee. Educated at the Wharton School in Philadelphia, Kenneth has been a member of the banking/mortgage lending profession in Florida since 1962. Contact him at kbluh@americanbsm.com or 786-247-0547 where he manages American Bancshares Mortgage LLC’s Reverse Mortgage Department.

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