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News from Tallahassee for 12/12/13
Fla. Gov. wants to cut auto registration fees posted on 12/12/13
by GARY FINEOUT | AP
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — In a move that could help in a tough re-election fight, Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to roll back the fees that motorists pay to register their cars.
During a Thursday appearance in Tampa, Scott will wheel out a proposal to cut auto registration fees by $401 million next year. The governor's office estimates the cut — which would kick in on Sept. 1, 2014 — would result in a decrease of more than $25 for most motorists.
The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature increased auto fees in 2009 as part of an overall package of tax and fee hikes to help balance the state budget. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist — who was a Republican at the time— signed the fee hike into law. Crist is now running against Scott as a Democrat.
Scott had already said he wants to cut $500 million in taxes and fees next year. But this is the first time he has spelled out which taxes and fees he would target to cut.
In a white paper describing the proposal, the Scott administration contends that a projected budget surplus for next year should be used to undo the auto registration fee hike.
Florida economists last week concluded that the state's main tax collections would grow by 3.8 percent over the current fiscal year and another 4.9 percent by the middle of 2015, bringing the total to $27.5 billion. This means that Scott and state legislators next spring could have a budget surplus in excess of $1 billion even after paying for enrollment growth for schools and programs such as Medicaid.
When Scott first announced his plan to cut taxes and fees he held a series of public meetings with business owners and residents to discuss potential areas for cuts. That created a push by groups and business interest to propose cuts in everything from business taxes on electricity to sales taxes on commercial leases.
by JESSICA PALOMBO | WFSU
A Florida lawmaker has filed legislation that would add Florida’s backing to a national movement seeking to limit the federal government’s power. The memorial needs OK's from 34 states before triggering a constitutional amending conference.
State Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) says the federal government does too much, collects too many taxes and imposes too many restrictions. So he and lawmakers from across the country have signed on to a plan for states to amend the U.S. Constitution.
“It’s going to have to be an American issue, not a partisan issue at all," Hays says.
JOBS IN FLORIDA: THE RICK SCOTT RECORD | PART 3 OF 3: GOV. SCOTT'S JOBS PLAN APPEARS TO BE OUT OF REACH posted on 12/10/13
by KATIE SANDERS | Politifact
Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011 with a simple plan he promised would invigorate the state’s economy.
Over seven years, through seven steps, Florida would add 700,000 jobs. Shorter: 7-7-7.
Not only that, the state would see improvements in its gross domestic product, personal income and tax collections, all achieved through putting government on a diet and giving taxpayers a break.
Three years into Scott’s tenure, Florida is recovering in ways that surprise economists. The unemployment rate is down dramatically, below the national average, and the state has churned out hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
But are Florida’s gains enough for Scott to keep his biggest campaign promise?
The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times created a database to track every jobs deal involving state incentives since Gov. Rick Scott took office Jan. 4, 2011. View it here.
Read the rest of the story and the other two installments of the series here.
THE RICK SCOTT RECORD | PART 2 OF 3: GOV. SCOTT'S 'LOST' JOBS posted on 12/9/13
by MARY ELLEN KLAS AND KATHLEEN MCGRORY | HERALD/TIMES TALLAHASSEE BUREAU
FFor nearly three decades, this rural community in north central Florida was home to a bustling mill that was the principal employer for its 1,400 residents.
Then, in November 2011, the recession-induced collapse of the housing market forced Georgia-Pacific to close its plywood plant.
All 400 employees were sent scrambling to find work — weeks before the holidays. And the mill that once produced the sawdust-covered staples of the state’s housing market stood idle, cutting off the lifeblood of the local economy...
The story of Hawthorne is not one Gov. Rick Scott talks about on his public relations roadshow as the state’s “jobs” governor. It is a tale of the tens of thousands of private sector jobs lost in Florida since Scott took office in January 2011. It is about once robust manufacturing jobs that were replaced by lower-wage service sector employment. And it is about the thousands of companies already here that received little help with tax breaks or other incentives.
The number of jobs that have disappeared on Scott’s watch include:
• A loss of 49,163 jobs at companies with more than 100 employees between January 2011 and November 2013, according to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) data filed by large employers. These companies are required to provide advanced notice of plant closing and mass layoffs to the state and federal government.
• A loss of 1,097,092 total private sector jobs between January 2011 and December 2012, according to the online research site YourEconomy.org which measures job growth using numbers complied by the U.S. Department of Labor and Dun and Bradstreet.
• Companies expanding less and contracting more than other states between January 2011 and December 2012, according to the YourEconomy data. About 127,905 fewer companies expanded during that time than they did in 2009-10, and existing companies cut their labor force by 52,391 jobs, the data shows.
• The loss of 37,736 jobs at companies with fewer than 9 employees, and the closing of 32,240 self-employed businesses between January 2011 and December 2012, according to the YourEconomy.org data.
Gray Swoope, head of Enterprise Florida, the public-private partnership that serves as the state’s chief economic development arm, defends the governor’s record on jobs.
The governor believes the best way to help existing companies is to make sure taxes and regulations are low, he said, and when companies are courted by other states, Florida responds with incentives to keep them here.
by Robert Barnes | Washington Post
On one of the busiest online-shopping days of the year, the Supreme Court declined Monday to get involved in state efforts to force Web retailers such as Amazon.com to collect sales tax from customers even in places where the companies do not have a physical presence.
The multibillion-dollar issue — which could end tax-free online shopping for many Americans — is one of the most important in modern retailing. Traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses say the online retailers receive an unfair advantage by not having to collect sales taxes in some areas.
All but five states impose sales taxes on purchases, whether online or not, and an increasing number have passed legislation to force online retailers such as Overstock.com and eBay to begin collecting those taxes from customers.
The court’s decision to stay out of the issue for now may put more pressure on Congress to come up with a national solution, as both online and traditional retailers complain about a patchwork of state laws and conflicting lower-court decisions.
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