Gov. Bush: State can cut taxes and spend
Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 17, 2005 at 11:38 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - With economic growth driving billions of new dollars into the state's coffers, Florida will have enough money to boost spending on essential programs and cut taxes as well, Gov. Jeb Bush said Monday.
"We can do both," Bush said a day before issuing his budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The governor said Florida will have $4.5 billion more coming into the state treasury - at least.
Although Bush won't lay out his full plan until today, he has outlined some of his priorities, including reforming the mammoth $15 billion health-care program that pays for most of the nursing home care in the state and expanding reading initiatives.
The governor last week said he would propose an increase in the current $57 billion budget "well below" 5.6 percent, which is the anticipated growth in personal income in Florida.
The governor's budget proposal is just a recommendation to state lawmakers, who will write a state budget during the two-month legislative session that begins March 8.
But the governor's goal of tax relief will find a warm reception in the Legislature, where Republicans hold a two-to-one lead over Democrats.
Lawmakers last year cut taxes for businesses, shoppers and drivers to the tune of about $220 million. More than half of that break went to businesses, which got about $125 million in relief.
Bush reiterated his commitment to tax relief last week, saying that it has proven its effectiveness in stimulating the economy.
"It is important to continue the policy of tax relief so that people can re-invest, creating more economic activity, creating more revenue for government," Bush said.
Bush has been coy on details - but the top budget-writer in the House said last week he wants lawmakers to repeal what's left of the intangibles tax on stocks and bonds this year.
Lawmakers have been gradually reducing and narrowing the intangibles tax but took a break over the last two years because of the recession.
State Rep. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican chairing the House Fiscal Council, said Monday he wanted to repeal the intangibles tax completely this year rather than over a two-year period.
"It's time to eliminate the intangibles tax once and for all. The revenues that the voters have sent us are sufficient to fund our future growth especially if we reform Medicaid over the next couple of years," Negron said.
Bush wouldn't comment on whether he would go for that time table - but as someone who has championed the repeal of the tax for six years he was happy to hear the enthusiasm.
"It warms my heart that the Appropriations chair is trying to out-compete us in the speed by which the intangibles tax can be eliminated," Bush told reporters.
Besides cutting taxes, Bush wants to continue socking some of the money into reserves - that policy paid off last week when Florida's credit rating was upgraded by a Wall Street rating agency.
The Bush budget proposal will recommend increasing general revenue savings to $1.6 billion. When reserves and savings in trust funds are counted, that total more than doubles to $3.8 billion.
He also will recommend that lawmakers use nearly half a billion in cash to buy and maintain environmentally sensitive lands and build schools, rather than borrow money through bonds.
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