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Rick Scott's budget chief says $500 million tax cut could work


Gov. Rick Scott's budget chief has outlined a path to accomplish the governor's proposed $500 million tax cut while still bolstering the state's emergency savings fund.

Budget chief Jerry McDaniel said there are three ways to reach the magic number, but stopped short of advocating a particular plan or determining whether a $500 million tax cut was a good policy decision. The savings can be reached by further reductions in state spending, growth in general revenue due to a rebounding economy, moving funds from special accounts to the general revenue budget, or any combination of the three, McDaniel wrote.

So far, budget estimates predict an $846 million increase in general revenue, even after accounting for the state's existing budget needs, "clearly leaving sufficient funds to provide broad tax cuts for Florida families and increased reserves," according to the memo. 

Scott has not identified which taxes or fees he would like to reduce, saying he wants to hear ideas from Florida taxpayers and business owners. Others have suggested he prioritize cuts in fees for services paid by individuals as opposed to boosting tax breaks for businesses. And some Democrats have expressed an interest in boosting funding for education as opposed to Scott's idea.

The House's budget chief says he agrees with the tax cut proposal but is not sure $500 million is the number.

"I share the Governor's passion for tax cuts and fully expect a significant tax cut package in next year's budget," Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, said. "But it's too early to commit to a specific dollar figure."

State analysts will review revenue estimates at least twice before the session begins in March. The Legislature must approve a balanced budget before session ends in early May. 

Senate President Don Gaetz said he supports Scott's goal to reach $500 million in cuts. But anything could happen over the next six months to derail it, such as a natural disaster or continued gridlock in Washington that slows down the economy, he added.

"I agree with the governor that it's time to return tax and fee money to hardworking Floridians," the Niceville Republican said.

Click here to download McDaniel's budget memo.