Florida TaxWatch

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A Florida TaxWatch report is offering some recommendations for Florida when it comes to removing employment barriers for people with criminal records.

Citizens Group Pushes Slimmed-Down City Budget

Sep 16, 2015
Tom Flanigan

The first of two public hearings on the City of Tallahassee’s proposed budget takes place at City Hall this evening.  But on the eve of that hearing, a group of business-minded citizens presented an alternative spending plan that would require no property tax increase.

A wild Turkey - representing a budget turkey
Olin Gilbert via Flikr / WFSU News

On Tuesday Governor Rick Scott used the power of a pen to approve the 2015-2016 state budget of $78.2 billion, just as he used that same power to veto more than $461 million in special projects. Some lawmakers are upset over the amount of vetoed bills.

Michael Miley / Flickr Creative Commons

Florida is home to many world-famous flight schools, but the taxes on aviation fuel can further elevate the already sky-high education costs. Florida lawmakers see those taxes as unnecessary ballast.

FWC's Flickr account

Florida’s fishing industry has dealt with its fair share of problems, with oil spills and grouper shortages. But as Matthew Seeger reports, an article from Florida Taxwatch exposes another problem- ecological damage caused by a hungry little troublemaker known as the lionfish.

Getty Images

The two criminal justice panels of the Florida Legislature are slated to meet Tuesday to take up a number of issues from the state’s troubled prison agency to a gun bill allowing guns on campus.

Newly appointed Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julies Jones is expected to brief the Senate Criminal Justice Committee members about areas where the department is lacking and trying to improve.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Pension reform is slated to come up during the 2015 legislative session. So, could this be the year local pension reform actually comes to pass? What about overhauling Florida’s Retirement System that opponents say is already sound? We'll take a look at what stakeholders are hoping for in the New Year.

Robert Weissert is the Chief Research Officer for Florida TaxWatch, a government watchdog group, which recently released its annual cost savings report. One area Weissert says state government could save some money is by overhauling the Florida Retirement System.

Florida TaxWatch

Moving state employees into riskier, but potentially more profitable retirement plans is just one way to trim the state’s $77 billion budget, Florida TaxWatch, a government watchdog group, recommended in its annual report released Thursday.

Robert Weissert, TaxWatch’s chief researcher, says lawmakers should look hard at the recommendations while they decide how to spend a $ 1 billion surplus.

“Budget surpluses do not mean that we should not spend taxpayer money wisely,” he said.

LHatter / WFSU News

Florida lawmakers appear ready to re-ignite talks on the future of telemedicine after it was extinguished. The issue of how to handle doctors who treat patients remotely was jumbled into a larger health-related bill, which contributed to its defeat last session.

Florida TaxWatch’s Tamara Demko says lawmakers need to pare down their goals for addressing telemedicine in the state.

Florida TaxWatch

About a fifth of Florida’s inmate population is elderly. A new report warns as the state’s aging prison population continues to rise, officials will soon be dealing with a severe strain on Florida’s budget.

The Florida Department of Corrections characterizes elderly prisoners as those over the age of 50. According to a Florida TaxWatch report, the average health care costs for elderly prisoners is about 11,000 dollars a year—nearly four times what it costs for younger inmates.

Dominic Calabaro speaking at the press conference.
Nick Evans

The nonprofit government watchdog group Florida TaxWatch released its voter’s guide Wednesday detailing proposed state constitutional amendments. 

Unlike some other issuers of voting guides, fiscally conservative TaxWatch doesn’t take a yes-or-no stance on the initiatives.  Instead, it offers a take on the pros and cons of enacting the amendments.    

Dominic Calabro, head of the organization, says it’s important to exercise caution when changing the state constitution.

After the issue died during the 2014 session, should Florida lawmakers revisit a push to make changes to municipal pensions largely affecting police and firefighter unions? A coalition made up of mainly business-backed groups say yes. But, some say while they agree, the recent formation of the coalition pushing for local pension reform is disingenuous.

Bill To Be Filed In 2015

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

A coalition of business and policy groups want lawmakers to pass a fix to a troubled local pension system in 2015, after he issue died during the 2014 session when it got tied to a controversial overhaul of the Florida Retirement System. The municipal pension reform mainly affects local police and firefighters.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

Since 2009, Florida has seen a steady increase in the number of visitors to the Sunshine State, and has had record tourism numbers. A new study by a non-partisan watchdog group shows Florida may now also be on track to meeting a big milestone: attracting 100 million visitors by 2015.

Will Seccombe is the head of Florida’s tourism agency, Visit Florida. He says there’s no question in his mind that the industry is on a steady upswing—as outlined in a report by Florida TaxWatch.

Florida Channel

Governor Rick Scott signed a record budget of about $77 billion into law Monday.

Scott Signs Budget

This year’s budget is 3.5 percent higher than last year's and includes a boost in money for schools, child welfare and projects to battle water pollution. But, Scott says that’s not the only thing.

“It’s a budget that the most important thing is we cut $500 million in taxes. I looked at every line to say are we getting a return for the taxpayers. Is it good for the citizens,” said Scott, speaking to reporters Monday.

Capital Report: 03-19-2014

Mar 19, 2014

Widely loved former Florida governor Reubin Askew was memorialized in Tallahassee this week before being laid to rest in his home town of Pensacola. As Jessica Palombo reports, those whose lives Askew touched got the chance to pay their respects as he lay in state at the Historic Capitol Tuesday and at a church service today [Wednesday].

New IT Agency Haunted By Past Failures

Feb 14, 2014
R.Benk / WFSU-News

The state of Florida is one step closer to creating an agency dedicated to streamlining how the state implements technology. But, this is the Sunshine State’s second crack at an IT Agency – its last ended in disappointment. Now, some wonder if this iteration is doomed to repeat past failures.

The state of Florida employs close to 100-thousand people across 35 agencies. And all of those employees are paid using the same accounting system the state created when Jimmy Carter was President. Watchdog groups, lawmakers and former agency heads are warning Floridians of the system’s limitations and the possibility of a system crash.

Florida TaxWatch

A tax watchdog group is calling for the creation of a new state agency to oversee how Florida implements information technology. TaxWatch researchers say because of the lack of statewide tech standards, Florida tax dollars are being wasted.

Florida's Fishing Tourism Nets $5 Billion

Aug 27, 2013
lawdawg1 / Flickr Creative Commons

Florida’s fishing industry is one of the largest in the country and that includes fishing tourism. A new study shows the tourism has an almost $5 billion economic impact in the state.

Florida TaxWatch, a non-partisan research firm in Tallahassee, released a study that said Florida’s fishing tourism nets $36 million in fishing licenses alone. Additionally, fishing tourism supports more than 80,000 jobs across the state’s service and hospitality industries. TaxWatch Chief Economist Jerry Parrish says when tourists come to fish in Florida, they come ready to spend some clams.

Florida business organizations are promoting a recent study which suggests the Marketplace Fairness Act can create jobs and build revenue for state governments.  But critics say the law will be detrimental for small businesses.

At a press conference Friday, officials from Florida TaxWatch, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and the Florida Retail Federation unveiled a study conducted by conservative economist Art Laffer.  The study analyzes the benefits of the Marketplace Fairness Act – a law allowing states to collect tax on internet sales.

Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

Dozens of state workers from Tallahassee and Northwest Florida got awards Wednesday for making government more efficient. Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave the keynote speech at the 25th annual Prudential-Davis Productivity Awards.

The government efficiency awards are co-sponsored by the state and nonprofit government watchdog group Florida TaxWatch.

TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro said, “'Government productivity' is not an oxymoron, and you folks prove it."

Government watchdog group Florida TaxWatch is defending the release of a report in favor of closing the state’s most popular retirement option to newly hired employees.

The report, called "Modernizing the FRS: Switching to a Defined Contribution Plan," recommends the state make the Florida Retirement System as competitive as the private sector's by solely having an investment plan retirement option, eliminating the state's pension plan.

Online Sales Tax Expansion Getting Bipartisan Support

Jan 25, 2013
Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

The idea of Florida collecting more taxes from online retailers is getting bipartisan support among state lawmakers. What was once an idea pushed mainly by Democrats is getting the attention of Republicans now that Florida businesses are calling for relief.

Kim Williams owns a stationery and party-supply store called the Polka Dot Press in Tallahassee. 

“We try to outservice everybody,” she said. “I mean, I preach that in my store to my staff.”