Who's up for another tax cut? Or better yet, who isn't?
Apparently, Gov. Rick Scott -- now promising $1 billion in tax and fee cuts over the next two years -- is once again banking on that sentiment to help him retain the governor's seat come November. He just hasn't shared yet how he will make this happen, other than "with the input of the Legislature."
That's already sounding a little dicey given that state lawmakers have been lukewarm to some of the proposed tax cuts, and state long-range economic forecasters last week advised caution in making such promises -- despite a projected $336.2 million surplus in the next budget year.
Still, Scott and his political handlers deserve kudos for continuing to recognize that this is an election year and he is in a tough gubernatorial campaign.
Indeed, the current occupant of the Florida governor's mansion had already stepped up his game on the environment and Democratic rival Charlie Crist's sweet spot, education.
Scott, looking for the repeat, has unveiled a 10-year, $1 billion water policy and promised $7,176 per student for 2015-2016, respectively.
But when it comes to American voters, nothing says "I love you, man" like the promise of $1 billion in tax and fee cuts.
Scott is in the midst of a two-week, 28-city tour touting the cuts -- including Boca Raton and Wellington on Wednesday. The governor hopes to get there with, among other things, another $200 million in sales-tax shopping holidays, a $120 fee reduction on the $225 charge for first-time vehicle registrations, and phasing out both the corporate income tax and a sales tax on commercial leases.
He's also calling for enactment of a constitutional amendment that would prevent residential property tax increases on homesteaded property when home values don't go up.
To help highlight the tax and fee cuts, Scott began his tour last week on the same day that his promised (and delivered) vehicle-registration fee cuts went into effect. The cuts are estimated to be worth $309.1 million during the current 2014-15 fiscal year and $394.6 million in later years, when the cuts will be in effect for a year.
The vehicle fee reduction was part of the wide-ranging, $500 million "patchwork of awesomeness" tax package that also included sales-tax holidays, a reduction in the insurance premium tax on bail-bond premiums, and the permanent elimination of sales taxes on college meal plans, therapeutic pet foods, child car seats and bicycle helmets for kids.
That's not to say that Scott got everything on his wish list. Efforts to cut taxes on commercial leases and the communications-services taxes stalled again, as did efforts to eliminate the state corporate income tax. A bid for a permanent tax cut for manufacturing machinery became a three-year temporary cut in the last throes of the legislative session.
But so far, signs point to a tougher road for passing another huge tax- and fee-cut package next session. First of all, an off-year for elections doesn't bode well.
Even an extra $336.2 million to play with -- after setting aside $1 billion in reserves -- is good only if state lawmakers don't have their own priorities.
And again, the annual Long-Range Financial Outlook draft report says that while the state's economy will likely continue to grow for the time being, "in the forecast, months of modest growth are expected before normalcy is largely achieved by Fiscal Year 2016-17 with construction and real estate still presenting notable exceptions."
Moreover, the most intriguing and ambitious piece of Scott's tax- and fee-cut package -- which appears aimed at blunting Democrats' claims that property taxes have increased $400 million under his stewardship -- may be a non-starter. A similar effort to prevent property tax increases failed by 57 percent of the vote in 2012.
The local governments, including school districts, that were strapped for cash then are finally starting to see their way out the red in their budgets. Scott's proposal would limit local governments' ability to collect revenue during economic downturns. It would also prohibit tax increases if the assessed value of the home goes down.
"It's a political ploy. That's all it is," former Republican Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, whom Scott appointed to be Pasco County's tax collector last year, told the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau.
"He's got to get the Legislature to agree with him and the impact would be just too great."
Right. But what's an election year without promises?
Rick Christie, writes for The Palm Beach Post. E-mail: email@example.com.