Gov. Scott Wants to Cut Taxes, Boost Schools, Lure Business

By GARY FINEOUT, Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A defiant Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday proposed an $83.5 billion budget that boosts spending on schools and on incentives to lure businesses to Florida, but it’s expected to draw strong opposition from legislative leaders.

Scott released details of his spending plan Tuesday during the annual legislative planning session hosted by The Associated Press.

The Republican governor — sending out a direct shot to some of his critics in the GOP-controlled Legislature — framed his budget as way to maintain Florida’s economy and to grow jobs. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has trashed Scott’s proposed business incentives as “corporate welfare” and has vowed to stand firm against them.

An undeterred Scott wants legislators to set aside $85 million for incentives in the coming year that would be used to entice companies to relocate or expand in the state. He said people who oppose them have never run a business themselves.

“We cannot be shortsighted to think we are immune to another national recession,” said Scott, who was a health care executive and had never run for office before he was elected in 2010.

Scott also calls for $618 million in tax cuts, including a sharp reduction in sales taxes currently on charged on commercial leases. He also wants to offer residents several tax holidays where sales taxes would not be collected on items such as clothes or hurricane supplies.

But the governor also wants to rely on a rise in local property values to help boost money for the state’s public schools. Scott has defended this approach, saying the rise in values, which results in a higher property tax bill, is a sign that the economy is improving.

Corcoran and other House Republicans, however, contend this is a tax increase and have already said they will not go along with the proposal.

Scott also recommends eliminating a contentious teacher bonus plan called the “Best and Brightest” that awards extra money to teachers based on their annual evaluations and their scores on the standardized tests used to get into college. The program had been pushed by House Republicans.

In its place Scott wants to spend $58 million to help retain and recruit teachers. His plan includes offering hiring bonuses.

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