Elected officials gathered at the Capitol's observation deck Wednesday to lay out their plans for the coming year. The Associated Press hosts the annual event.
This year the state Legislature cut more than $400 million in taxes. But Florida Governor Rick Scott is looking for even more cuts in the coming year.
When lawmakers return to Tallahassee early next year they’ll have nearly $640 million to work with, and Scott is pitching a range of tax cuts aimed in part at helping the state’s manufacturers.
But when it comes to the question of how to pay for it, Senate President Andy Gardiner says it’s complicated.
“One thing that we cautioned in our memo to the members,” Gardiner says, “is while we do have more money coming into the state of Florida—there’s absolutely no one disputes that—the concern starts to become how much of that is recurring and how much is non-recurring.”
Economic forecasts indicate only about a tenth of the state’s surplus can be put toward recurring programs without sending Florida into the red. The governor hasn’t put a number on his tax cut proposal, but he’s hoping to surpass this year’s 427 million dollar package.
Meanwhile House Speaker Steve Crisafulli wants lawmakers to hammer out a cohesive state water policy. He says the stakes are high, and the Sunshine State could look a lot like the Golden State if the Legislature fails to act.
Crisafulli says California, “[is] experiencing a drought that has left them with potentially, as they say today—one year of reserves. An agricultural industry that’s losing billions of dollars, and tens of thousands of jobs that has really no contingency in place.”
Crisafulli notes lawmakers came close to addressing water earlier this year. But the proposal fell victim to deteriorating relations that eventually led to the regular session’s collapse.
Further down the priority list, Republican lawmakers will try again on a measure that would allow firearms on college campuses. The bill died in the Senate earlier this year, and Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner says her vote hasn’t changed.
“When you mix young people and education with drugs, with sex, with frivolity and youthfulness, and guns, then you create a situation that could possibly result in untold numbers of injuries and death,” Joyner says.
But it’s not all bad news on the coalition-building front. Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee) has joined fourteen Republican Representatives to co-sponsor the measure.