Gov. Rick Scott released what he called his “jobs budget” on Monday — a proposal that covers two years, seeks a sweeping restructuring of state government and cuts more than $4.6 billion in the first year and nearly $2.6 billion in the second for a total of more than $7 billion.
He also plans to cut a total of almost 13,000 state jobs over two years and overhaul Florida’s pension system.
Minutes after Scott unveiled his budget at a tea party event in Eustis, the website containing many of the details crashed, and didn’t come back online permanently until late in the evening.
Scott pledged to implement “accountability budgeting,” one of his earliest promises during his campaign, in which agencies will be given targets that measure their ability to serve “customers,” i.e. the state’s taxpayers and those who rely on government services. If an agency doesn’t hit its target, it could be reorganized, realigned, or privatized, he said. If the state isn’t doing something well, it may be time to get out of that business, he said.
Here’s how Scott’s budget deals with a variety of state functions:
Scott’s proposal reduces education spending by some $3.3 billion, largely the consequence of expiring stimulus funds. At the K-12 level, he proposes a reduction of $700 per student in spending or 10 percent of the current level. With the help of a one-time infusion from a federal grant, the spending reduction would actually be considerably less during the first year — close to $300 per student.
Scott’s plan also expects local districts to find more funds by requiring teachers and other employees to contribute 5 percent of their salaries to their pensions.
Scott also renames the financing program that provides for more than half of his K-12 budget. His proposal dubs it “The Public Education Choice Fund.”
Scott wants more than $900 million in economic development funds over two years, which would go toward tax breaks, rebates, and other efforts to lure companies to the state. This year, the office got about $217 million for that purpose.
Scott has long been hinting at plans to scale back the Department of Community Affairs. His budget pares the 358-person agency down to 40 positions. Under the governor’s proposal, the department’s affordable housing unit would be all that would remain, and its Division of Emergency Management would be folded into the Executive Office of the Governor.
As for its growth management operations, some would be integrated into the Department of Environmental Protection. Bruce Ritchie reports that Scott’s team would like to keep 10 of the 61 employees in the community planning division.
Scott slashes property taxes by $1.4 billion over two years. About a third of that comes from a “holiday” on levies by water management districts. On the whole, he cuts taxes by more than $4 billion over two years, achieving, his website notes, $540 in savings per household. About $1.4 billion of the total comes from a reduction in the state’s corporate tax and another $630 million comes from a reduction of unemployment taxes paid by businesses.
After the second year, Scott wants to continue cutting the corporate tax (.pdf), with the goal of eliminating it completely in seven years.
Children and families
Scott targets the Department of Children and Family Services for some of his deepest cuts, including his single largest reduction in staff, with 1,849 positions eliminated. As part of a wholesale reorganization of the agency, the governor proposes privatizing three mental hospitals.