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In Jacksonville, Scott Turns Up The Heat On Lawmakers To Pass $1B In Tax Cuts

Florida Governor Rick Scott passed through Jacksonville Wednesday touting his plan to cut state taxes by $1 billion dollars.

Scott says there’s more than enough in public coffers to offset the cuts, despite state economists’ projecting just over half that amount as the expected surplus.

Scott is hoping to get the public to apply pressure to lawmakers.

Scott looks like a candidate running for office. He’s surrounded by slick posters and an adoring crowd. At the Mac Paper plant in Jacksonville, he’s stumping for his plan to cut $1 billion in taxes next year.

Scott wants to make a two-year-old manufacturing equipment tax cut permanent and eliminate taxes on commercial leases, among a host of other cuts. He says they’ll help business invest that money in hiring people instead.

But the two-term governor and business leaders at his side say it’s not up to the governor alone.

Scott, National Federation of Independent Businesses Florida Director Bill Herrle, Murphy Business and Financial Services’ Kimberley Deas and hunting accessory manufacturer Safariland’s Blake Brown are all urging the public to call their legislators and tell them to support his measure.

But Scott’s announcement of the proposal received a less enthusiastic reception from legislative leaders last week. Senate President Andy Gardiner says his target cut is one-fourth of what Scott’s asking.

That’s because state economists calculate Florida will have less than $650 million in surplus after paying its bills.

Scott believes that number is too conservative, though.

“We have $1.3 billion more revenue this year than last year,” Scott says. “We’ve got $3.4 billion more in revenues than recurring expenses. So, we have the opportunity — we have the money to be able to fund this tax reduction.”

Still, Scott’s figures don't account for an increase in costs. And Gardiner says much of the new revenue won’t stick around after next year.

And there’s another wrinkle — lawmakers have to figure out how to cover a $400 million decrease in federal funding that covers indigent health care.

Facing legislative inaction on the issue, Jacksonville Congresswoman Corrine Brown is throwing her weight behind a ballot measure that would help more uninsured Floridians qualify for Medicaid.

But Scott says he doesn’t want more state money going toward the federal program.

He says, “it would have a significant cost for our citizens. What I’m focused on in health care is — let’s do everything we can to drive down the cost of health care, improve the quality of health care, improve access to health care.”

Scott’s banking on for-profit hospitals’ cutting costs and making their pricing more transparent to patients.

It’s a tall order — but the self-proclaimed “jobs governor” is making sure the pressure’s on. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.