Florida State of the State: Governor Scott Calls for Supermajority Requirement for Tax Hikes
In an emotional final State of the State address January 9, Florida Governor Rick Scott began by thanking the people of Florida for the opportunity granted him to help create an environment of opportunities for all in the Sunshine State. He renewed the call for more pro-growth tax relief, lower licensing fees and regulations, and stronger protections for survivors of sexual assault. The governor also asked for a constitutional amendment requiring supermajority approval of the legislature before taxes can be raised.
Gov. Scott reflected on the multi-faceted progress throughout his time as governor. He recounted that his first goal in 2011 was to change the status quo. The governor cited many improving key economic metrics over the past seven years. According to the governor, the private sector added nearly 1.5 million jobs, the GDP grew 26 percent, state debt fell by $9 billion and the unemployment rate dropped from over 10 percent to a 10 year low of 3.6 percent. Gov. Scott counseled that “having a job is not something we should ever take for granted” and that Florida’s incredible economic rebound is a direct result of the nearly 80 times lawmakers were able to cut taxes. The governor applauded the cumulative $7.5 billion in tax reductions over his tenure.
Looking to the future, Governor Scott outlined a series of narrowly targeted tax cuts aimed at helping consumers, including more sales tax holidays for hurricane and emergency preparedness supplies. Unfortunately, this will generate minimal economic growth. By contrast, permanently reducing overall tax rates by simultaneously broadening the base through closing loopholes and eliminating exemptions will enhance economic growth and efficiency. In other efforts to reduce government regulatory burdens generally, he called for reducing new driver’s license fees to $20.
Like many other governors this year, Scott asked lawmakers for $53 million to address the opioid crisis. This hot-button issue has put pressure on many states to hike health cares spending – an already ballooning area of spending in the states that chose to expand Medicaid. Lawmakers should seek ways to prioritize spending on programs or efforts with proven outcomes.
Perhaps his most important call for action was a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds majority in the legislature to raise taxes. A stronger limitation on the growth of government will “force leaders to contemplate living within their means rather than taking the easy way out and just sticking it to the public by raising taxes on families and job creators.” The ALEC model policy on super-majority requirements provides a strong framework to which lawmakers can refer when seeking effective ways to control the budget process. Such an amendment would safeguard the pro-growth reforms of the past seven years and Gov. Scott’s legacy as a champion of economic growth.
The strong commitment to these reforms is what has rocketed The Sunshine State from 16th to 6th in the economic outlook Rich States, Poor States. Enacting a supermajority requirement in his final year fits well with his closing plea to “fight together until our last minute…to secure Florida’s future for every family.”