News from Tallahassee for 2/1/15

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Scott proposes nearly $77 billion state budget posted on 1/29/15

by GARY FINEOUT | AP

US Dollar puzzleTALLAHASSEE — Flush with a significant budget surplus, Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday called on legislators to slash taxes, boost spending on schools, while also spending more on the state's troubled prisons system.

Many of the key recommendations in Scott's nearly $77 billion proposal had been released over the past few weeks — and reflected much of what the Republican promised during his hard-fought re-election campaign.

Scott, however, put a point of emphasis on his call for another substantial round of tax cuts, which would total nearly $700 million when fully put into place.

They include a cut in taxes charged on cell phones and cable television bills as well as exempting college textbooks from state and local sales taxes. He also wants to have a three-day sales tax holiday right before school starts this fall.

"After four years I have learned that there's a great temptation in government to think you can spend people's money better they can but we all know that's not true," Scott said during the annual legislative planning day organized by The Associated Press. "People know best how to spend their own money."

Scott's budget also relies on rising property values — which trigger higher taxes — for increased money for public schools and calls for increasing per-student funding to $7,176. State lawmakers will use Scott's recommendations as a framework for a final budget.

The Legislature has about a $1 billion budget windfall to work with even after it pays for increased school enrollment and sets aside money for reserves.

But there are already signs of some fault lines dividing GOP legislative leaders and Scott. House and Senate leaders said that while they support tax cuts they did not endorse the size and type of cuts proposed by Scott.

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Weekly Roundup: Trying to Change the Subject posted on 1/26/15

by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida

Any week when a Republican governor can propose more than half a billion dollars in tax relief and announce that the unemployment rate has ticked down by 0.2 percentage points is supposed to be a good week.

And Gov. Rick Scott got to open and close his week on those two positive notes, the perfect bookends to any week. Or, at least, any other week.

Because the middle of the week was once again consumed by questions about the ouster of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, a story that has become one of the most serious challenges to Scott's 4-year-old administration. Everyone expected Scott would run into trouble in his second term -- but few thought it would come this quickly.

That said, the news was not all FDLE, all the time. There were the positive notes from Scott, as well as the usual noise generated by a week of legislative committee meetings. Legislation that would allow firearms to be carried on college campuses started moving in the House. And the heads of two besieged departments trekked to the Capitol to answer lawmakers' questions.

The question hovering over it all, though, was whether the fallout from Bailey's dismissal would drag into a third week.

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Florida Gov. pushing cut in taxes on cellphones, cable TV posted on 1/20/15

by AP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to cut the state taxes charged on various communications services including cable television, cellphones and traditional phone lines.

Scott on Tuesday will call on state legislators to cut nearly $500 million a year in the tax. The Scott administration estimates that the 3.6 percent tax cut would save the average Floridian more than $40 a year.

Scott promised to cut the tax during his re-election campaign. The Republican governor wants to cut overall taxes by more than $1 billion over the next two years.

His proposal would cut more than a third of the money paid to the state in communication services taxes.

Money from the current tax is divided between state and local governments.

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As jobs czar Gray Swoope resigns, Florida Gov. Rick Scott faces fresh criticism over FDLE shakeup posted on 1/15/15

by Steve Bousquet | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Enterprise Florida logoTAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott is losing another top adviser — his prized chief jobs recruiter — and faces new criticism over his forced ouster of a high-ranking law enforcement official.

Surprised business leaders learned Wednesday of the resignation of Enterprise Florida CEO Gray Swoope, who will leave next month for an unannounced job in the private sector.

At the same time, Scott's handling of the ouster of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey drew harsh criticism from a fellow Republican.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, an independently elected Cabinet member, said Scott's office mishandled Bailey's removal and was deliberately vague about plans to force Bailey out.

Putnam, a likely candidate for governor in 2018, said Scott's aides kept his staff in the dark about his true intentions at FDLE.

"We were given a heads-up on a staff level that there was an interest in making changes going into the second term, including at FDLE. Period," Putnam told the Times/Herald. "That's all that was conveyed to me."

Only much later, Putnam said, did he learn that on the morning of Dec. 16, Bailey was ordered to "retire or resign" by Scott's general counsel, Pete Antonacci, who gave Bailey no reason for the action and, according to Bailey, claimed Scott was acting with the support of all three Cabinet members.

Putnam emphasized that Scott has the right to make personnel changes at the start of his new term, but that he was upset with the shabby way Bailey was treated after nearly three decades at FDLE.

"One would certainly expect that someone who had served as long and as well as Gerry Bailey would have been given more consideration than he was," Putnam said. "The manner in which it was handled was not known to me and was not at all how it should have been handled."

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Scott will use inaugural address to promote Florida as tax haven posted on 1/6/15

by JIM SAUNDERS | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott will use his second inaugural address today to pitch Florida as a state that is holding down taxes and limiting the size of government — while also making higher education more affordable to families.

Scott’s office Monday released excerpts of his prepared speech, which follows themes that were the focus of his first term in the governor’s office. The Republican also will vow to try to attract new residents from other states that have higher taxes.

“I have a message today to the people of New York, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and others: Move to Florida!” one of the excerpts said. “We want you to keep more of the money you make because we understand it’s your money. We want your businesses to grow and succeed. We want to compete globally and win. Over the next four years, I will be traveling to your states personally to recruit you here.”

Scott, who defeated Democrat Charlie Crist in the November election, will be sworn in at noon today on the steps of the Old Capitol. Since emerging on the state’s political scene in 2010, Scott has stuck closely to messages of creating jobs and making Florida friendly to businesses, while also taking on issues such holding down tuition at universities and colleges.

The U.S. Census Bureau released figures last month that showed Florida surpassing New York as the third most-populous state. Scott’s speech will take note of that milestone, while also linking it to Florida’s status as a relatively low-tax state and to policies aimed at limiting government.

“In fact, this national battle against growing government so intensely affects Florida that we just recently surpassed New York as the third largest state in the nation,” one excerpt said. “In Florida we are proving that government can do better without getting bigger.”

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