We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in Florida’s future
Here is what Florida TaxWatch thinks the Legislature should do.
The 2022 legislative session begins today and, despite the pandemic, Florida is in an enviable fiscal position. The state’s current budget is record in size, as are our budget reserves. Revenue collections are back above pre-pandemic levels, and this Legislature will have even more money available for the next budget cycle, made possible by both strong economic performance and billions in unappropriated federal funds.
This success can be attributed to Floridians — individuals and businesses alike — that led the nation in recovery through the pandemic, a significant influx of federal stimulus dollars and steps taken by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who demonstrated fiscal prudence and focused on the economy while also making strategic investments to address critical issues with statewide impact.
For sure, 2021 had its share of disruptions, but thankfully the Legislature provided numerous wins for Florida’s taxpayers with the passage of a number of TaxWatch priorities, including COVID-19 liability protections; adoption of E-Fairness provisions; replenishment of the pandemic-decimated Reemployment Trust Fund; and a reduction in the Business Rent Tax (the only such state tax in the nation), including a glide path for its complete elimination.
We as a state have a chance to build on this momentum in 2022. Florida TaxWatch is hopeful the Legislature will concentrate on a few specific measures that are important to Florida’s taxpayers.
LIABILITY PROTECTIONS. First, COVID-19 continues to impact businesses and communities, so we renew our call for continued liability protections for responsible Florida businesses and health care providers and continued support for critical services and workers essential to health, safety, and family stability.
TAXES. Second, Florida TaxWatch encourages legislators to act immediately to prevent a corporate income tax increase in Florida. Unless it takes proactive steps, this Legislature is positioned to pass an approximately $1 billion tax increase this year, something that is neither needed nor prudent while so many employers are adjusting to supply chain and labor force disruptions.
FOCUS ON TARGETED STRATEGIES. Finally, thanks to thoughtful and thorough consideration last year, as well as an unprecedented focus and restraint by Senate and House leadership, critical funding needs were met, larger reserves were established and several billion dollars were left unallocated and are pending consideration this session. While there is legitimate concern about the impact of such spending on the national deficit and whether Florida has received its fair share of these funds, the state is in a strong financial position and has an opportunity to focus investments on targeted strategies that position the state for future growth.
This is an opportunity we cannot shy away from. With an eye toward the future, last year we collaborated with leaders from across the state and the Florida Council of 100 in an effort to prioritize investments that would build economic resiliency and strengthen recovering communities. We stand ready to review this with state and local leaders and are always ready to partner with those focused on visionary ideas that secure economic growth and protect taxpayers’ interests.
Coming into legislative session, Florida TaxWatch urges legislative leaders to recommit to the concerns and needs of taxpayers — today’s payers and tomorrow’s. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our future. This is an excellent chance to modernize and put Florida in an even more stable position moving forward, and we should not squander it. Let us not sprinkle these dollars where they won’t have a lasting impact.
George LeMieux, formerly a U.S. Senator, is Chairman of the Board of Directors for Gunster and Board Chairman for Florida TaxWatch, the “eyes and ears” of taxpayers across the state. Dominic M. Calabro has been President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch for nearly all of the organization’s 41-year existence.
Opinion Editorial by George LeMieux and Dominic. M. Calabro
Tampa Bay Times
Jan. 11, 2022