Today, at a Tea Party event in tiny Eustis, Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) unveiled his new state budget. Since his time on the campaign trail, Scott has been promising to pair steep budget cuts with reductions in both the corporate and property tax rates. “It’s not daunting. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting,” Scott said when asked about tackling his state’s budget woes. He has said that he plans to make Florida the “most fiscally conservative” state in the nation.
True to his word, Scott’s budget slashes corporate taxes, while raiding Medicaid services for low-income residents in order to come up with savings:
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday afternoon will unveil a proposed state budget that includes deep spending cuts of an estimated $5 billion and will ask lawmakers to approved a dramatic reduction in property taxes…He also wants to trim about $700 million in corporate income taxes in Florida, which already has one of the nation’s lowest rates. [...]
Another big target for savings: the growing health insurance program for the poor and financially challenged, Medicaid. More than half of Medicaid’s $20.3 billion tab is picked up by the federal government, which can halt some wholesale changes. Scott and the Legislature can cut up to half of the program’s so-called optional services, many of which are popular and are designed to save money, however. Regardless, the state would lose hundreds of millions in federal matching money.
Scott already presides over a state with one of the most regressive tax systems in the country. The average tax rate on a low-income individual in Florida is 13.5 percent, while the average tax rate on the someone in the richest one percent of Floridians is a paltry 2.6 percent. Instead of finding new sources of revenue, Scott decided to cut into services designed to help those who are already bearing the burden of financing the state, while lavishing tax breaks on corporations.
Republican lawmakers in Florida have already cast doubt on whether or not Scott’s spending cuts will actually come to pass, and Republican school officials worry that his plan to reduce property taxes will be “devastating” to the state’s schools. Ultimately, as the Orlando Sentinel reported, the GOP leadership in the legislature has said that it’s “unlikely to approve tax cuts this year.” This is likely a wise course of action, considering what happened the last time the Tea Party got its hands on a local budget.
According to the text of the speech Scott delivered at the unveiling, he plans to cut $4 billion out of Medicaid while reducing the corporate income tax from 5 percent to 3.3 percent. Scott envisions completely phasing out the corporate income tax by 2018.
,Scott’s cuts may also result in the closing of one-third of Florida’s state parks.