Taxpayers, beware. Our governor boasts about his conservative tax-cutting bona fides, yet those are mirages when kindergarten to 12th-grade funding is concerned.
Florida funds K-12 education through a combination of state and local funding. Every school district must contribute property tax dollars for this. That's called the "required local effort." The state dictates the amount. Not you, the voter and taxpayer.
Gov. Rick Scott came out earlier this month to pound his chest with a promise to increase per-student spending to a "historic" level. That's all good and well -- except that $476 million in extra spending will only include $50 million from state coffers. So more than $400 million will come from local property owners.
While the Scott administration is attempting to pin this revenue increase on rising property values -- and, by the same token, not as a tax hike -- state law requires local governments to advertise such higher revenue as a tax increase when composing their own budgets even with a stable millage rate. State government must share that admission. Otherwise, those officials are hypocrites of the worst sort.
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The Scott administration is not being honest with Floridians, but fortunately legislative leaders are calling the governor out on this shameless charade.
Several powerful members of the GOP-controlled Senate -- Scott's fellow Republicans who he alienated this year with budget vetoes and other political missteps -- rejected his proposal.
Sen. Don Gaetz stated it best: "I cannot support this," said the former school superintendent, Niceville senator and chairman of his chamber's budget panel that will write the education budget.
But his most telling statement in a Herald/Time Tallahassee Bureau report sent a strong and legitimate message. "I don't think it's right or fair for Tallahassee politicians to reach around and the pat themselves and each other on the back about record per-pupil funding then make local school boards do the heavy lifting."
That's what Gov. Scott has in mind. Make someone else pay. Heaven forbid the state pay out of general fund money, not when more so-called tax cuts are likely in the offing from his office. Our governor brags about slicing taxes more than 50 times since he assumed office in 2011.
Homeowners who thought they would benefit from the $20 annual savings on cell phone and satellite TV taxes, which Scott signed into law in the spring, would see that disappear in school property taxes under this his education spending increase.
The state of Florida should increase K-12 education spending. Under Scott's plan, the state would continue to shrivel its share of the funding, once at 59 percent and under the governor's new plan at 49 percent. Tallahassee is famous for shifting its responsibilities elsewhere.
The state lottery system was sold to the public as a boon to education funding, something Florida wrongfully brags about. Those dollars only served as a replacement for other state funding, disappearing into general revenue.
With his latest education funding idea, the governor is selling us another bogus bill of goods. The Legislature should reject this latest smoke-and-mirrors idea. Instead, lawmakers should invest more state dollars into K-12 education.