Florida’s state government will be in for a “long-term slow squeeze” if it approves a revenue-limiting measure set to be taken up this morning by the Senate budget committee, according to the author of a new study scrutinizing the measure.
Nicholas Johnson of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says the proposal, known as a “Smart Cap,” offers a permanent solution to a problem Florida does not currently have: excessive government.
Florida is already a low-spending state, he says. For example, as of 2008, Florida ranks 35th in average per-student funding for K-12 schools, spending $1,213 less per student than the national average. Florida also has one of the country’s smallest and least expensive state workforces based on the size of its population.
This year’s version of the “Smart Cap” is not as strong as previous tax caps proposed by Senate President Mike Haridopolos, which stalled amid opposition from members of both parties. For one thing, it doesn’t restrict local government revenue that doesn’t come from the state.
But Johnson says the “Smart Cap” still has the same basic problem: It constrains lawmakers by dictating state revenue using a formula based on population and inflation, which doesn’t account for other factors, like Florida’s aging population, which is likely to require more government services over time.
“That’s such a fundamentally flawed formula that any other changes that you make are likely to be just window dressing,” he says.