Fla. Gov. Scott Preparing for Fight Over Budget Cuts

Image: Fla. Gov. Scott Preparing for Fight Over Budget Cuts

Monday, 25 Nov 2013 03:48 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott is set to clash with state agencies over his plans to cut taxes and trim the budget by $100 million next year in an attempt to win over voters in an election year.

The Republican governor is also hoping to increase spending on Florida schools as he cuts waste and makes a series of judicial spending cuts, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The problem is that although tax revenue has climbed and financial experts in the state as of now think there will be an $846 million surplus in 2014, the budget is still likely to come up short.

Agencies are asking for $1 billion more to fund an assortment of requests ranging from child-abuse investigations to prison beds to more state troopers, as well as to fill shortages created by previous budgets.

A major obstacle to balancing the books is that Medicaid is projected to cost at least $400 million next year while the Legislature has various pet projects, including helping clean polluted waters.

"Suffice to say, it would not be possible to fund them all, provide meaningful tax relief and address the other important issues that are facing our state," said Republican state Rep. Seth McKeel, who helps to write the state budget.

He added that Florida lawmakers have to "discern between needs and wants."

But Rep. Perry Thurston, the Democratic House minority leader, blamed Republicans for the state's financial woes.

"Florida faces a preponderance of needs that have been neglected by, and in some cases caused by, the Republican leadership," he said. "Florida is in need of a vast array of significant new investments and new political leadership."

Scott, who is likely to face former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in the gubernatorial race, is planning to roll back unpopular increases in car and truck tag fees, which were introduced during Crist's 2007-10 tenure.

Scott is hoping to look like he's doing motorists a favor while Democrat Crist hit them in the pocket, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

"My focus is on continuing to save money and giving people their money back," Scott said. "We're going to have the money. The economy's getting better."

Leading Republicans in Florida believethat the botched Obamacare rollout will hurt Crist at the polls.

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