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Gov. Scott's 'white paper' seeks less debt, spending cuts

A new "white paper" issued by Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday calls for a limited moratorium on new long-term debt by the state of Florida and will require state agencies to recommend at least $100 million in spending reductions as part of the budget he'll submit to the Legislature early next year.

Those proposals are in addition to Scott's call for $500 million in taxes, which he trumpeted in a recent statewide tour of business groups. The document underscores the fact that Scott will ask voters for a second term in 2014 based in large part on his fiscal stewardship of the state.

The six-page document is part of Scott's "It's Your Money Tax Cut Agenda." It reads like a CliffsNotes version of his next State of the State address to the Legislature and a manifesto for his re-election campaign, including the requisite digs at his predecessor and potential rival, Charlie Crist (though he is not mentioned by name), noting the job losses in the four years before Scott took office.

"Since taking office, Governor Scott has insisted on a new way of doing business," the report says at the outset. As the report states, since Scott became governor, state debt has declined by $3.5 billion and now stands at $24.6 billion. "At a time when Fitch Ratings has placed the United States credit rating on negative watch, they have, conversely, revised Florida's outlook from negative to stable," it says.

He says he will end his first term next year as the first governor in Florida history to have less public debt than when he took office.

Scott's paper says he will not allow the state to take on new borrowing for roads, land or education facilities "without specific and accountable returns on investment for taxpayers."

Scott's white paper does not suggest where the $500 million in tax cuts will come from. The two ideas that have gained early momentum are a roll back of 2009 car and truck registration fee increases and a repeal of the 6 percent statewide sales tax on commercial leases.

The memorandum says that Scott, as a private business executive, knew that for companies to remain competitive, they had to "reduce costs" by 2 to 3 percent each year. But the paper does not note that the current state budget, which he signed in May, is about $4 billion higher than the previous year's budget.

Just last week, the agencies under Scott's direction submitted their annual legislative budget requests to the governor, and they are larded with proposed spending increases on everything from new patrol cars for state troopers to expanded voter education programs to technology improvements.

-- Steve Bousquet