Gov. Rick Scott heard from business leaders several ideas for getting him to his goal of cutting $500 million in taxes or fees in Broward Tuesday.
Scott seemed open to all ideas but expressed no clear preference for how to get to his goal at an event held at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale.
“My primary goal next session will be to reduce taxes and fees in the state by $500 million,” Scott told the crowd.
Scott’s tax cut announcement coincides with what could be his tough re-election battle next year -- potentially against his predecessor Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat. He made a comical nod to the political backdrop when a businessman suggested that cutting sales tax on commercial leases would grow jobs -- though not overnight.
“Just by next November,” quipped the Republican governor.
Scott repeated claims he often makes contrasting job losses under Crist (without naming him) and contrasting that with job growth during his tenure. He made those comments without acknowledging that the economy tanked nationally during Crist’s tenure and improved during his own.
During Scott’s “tax cut tour” his office displayed a few posters listing various ideas for “tax cuts for Florida families” including car registration fees, sales tax holiday, property taxes and communications services tax. Another posted displayed “tax cuts for job creators” such as the business tax and sales tax on commercial leases.
The crowd of business leaders pushed heavily for the sales tax cut on commercial leases. Scott seemed very interested in that idea and said that Florida is the only state in the country that charges that particular tax -- though he later said New York City also does.
Other suggestions included a week-long tax holiday for businesses to make major purchases while another complained about the high penalties for businesses that pay their taxes late.
Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, the lone GOPer on his board who faces a tough re-election in a left-leaning district, was one of the rare voices to argue for cutting property taxes.
“Property taxes affect everybody who owns a home or a condominium,” LaMarca said.
Scott responded that he cut property taxes by $210 million in 2011. That’s a reference to taxes by water management districts -- a small slice of a homeowners’ bill.
Some participants urged Scott to not simply cut taxes and fees but reinvest in K-12 or higher education. Scott used the event to tout what he has already done including cutting corporate taxes, increasing workforce training and funding a pay raise for teachers.
In response to a student’s question about unemployment among college graduates, Scott said that there are about 250,000 job openings in the state. He said the key is making sure students get jobs in fields that have openings.
In a brief press gaggle after the event when asked if he preferred some tax cutting ideas rather than others Scott didn’t narrow down the list and said he is “open minded” about ways to get money back into families’ hands.
Scott was also asked a question about whether the 6.3 percent increase for Citizens insurance would wash out the tax or fee cuts he has proposed. Scott didn’t directly answer the question but reiterated comments that Citizens should be the “insurance company of last resort” as well as “efficient as possible.”
He also said that he only has two of the eight board members and “I don’t pick the chairman.”
When asked about whose idea it was to hold a gator hunt fundraiser Scott simply said: "Call RPOF."