By KELLI KENNEDY
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) â¿¿ Florida Gov. Rick Scott has embarked on a tour around the state to hear from business owners and residents about how to cut $500 million in taxes and fees next year, when he likely will face a tough re-election fight. But Democrats said the tour was nothing more than political posturing and warned that the cuts would favor special interest groups.
The governor said Florida is expected to have an extra $1.5 billion on hand next year if the economy continues to recover.
Scott said Tuesday he isn't committed to any hard plan, but two poster boards prepared by state officials for the events show cuts for employers could include business taxes on electricity and sales taxes on commercial leases. Potential cuts for Florida residents could come in the form of sales tax holidays or cuts to car registration fees, property taxes and communications services taxes.
"This is your money. I want to make sure it comes back to you whether you're a job creator or a family," said the Republican governor, who mostly listened to a hodgepodge of ideas from several dozen business leaders on everything from port expansion to water preservations and unemployment rates.
But a new three-year budget forecast released last week by state economists shows that there won't be enough money to do both tax cuts and increase spending significantly on schools. The forecast shows Florida would have a projected surplus of $845 million in fiscal year 2014 even after meeting current enrollment needs for schools and health care programs such as Medicaid and setting aside $1 billion in reserves.
Several attendees pushed heavily for cutting the tax on commercial leases, saying it would create jobs. The governor noted that Florida and New York city are the only places in the country that charge that tax.