In August, I pointed out that the economic plan put forward by now Gov.-elect Rick Scott (R-FL) was full of regressive tax cuts, making the country’s second most regressive state tax system even worse. But another byproduct of Scott’s plan is that school funding in his state may be significantly shortchanged.
Florida’s schools — like those in many states — are primarily funded by property tax revenue. Scott, meanwhile, has pushed for a 19 percent reduction in property taxes, along with a vague promise to fill the resulting hole in school funding from “state funds.” At least one Republican lawmaker in Florida is not convinced that Scott’s numbers add up:
Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, a former Volusia school administrator heavily involved in education issues during her stint in the Legislature, said that plan worries her. “Certainly we want to reduce taxes, but we don’t want to hurt education,” Lynn said, adding that Scott may have to temper some of his camping promises once in office. “He may change his thinking on some things when he sees how the process works.”
As the Pensacola News Journal reported, “Escambia County Superintendent of Schools Malcolm Thomas, also a Republican, said Scott’s plan to reduce state-mandated school property taxes by 19 percent would cause serious problems because school districts have little left to cut.” “If he’s expecting local school boards to deal with a 19 percent decrease in local funding, it would be devastating, unless he’s going to replace that,” Thomas said.
And with Scott’s plan to further blow a hole in the state budget by eliminating the corporate income tax, it’s hard to see where he would find funding to supplement the schools’ budgets. Florida is facing a $2.5 billion budget shortfall next year, before taking into account the effects of the Gulf oil spill.
This isn’t the first time that a Republican lawmaker has cast doubt on Scott’s plans. Back in September, Florida’s incoming Speaker of the House, Dean Cannon, said that when it comes to rooting out unrealized savings in the state budget — one of the linchpins of Scott’s plan to balance the budget — “Republican House members have been looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow marked ‘waste, fraud and abuse’ as a means to solve all of our problems. No one has found it, because it isn’t there.”