Governor Rick Scott’s Fighting for Florida’s Future Budget

Introduction from Governor Rick Scott

I am so proud to have the opportunity to travel our great state every day and meet the hard working Floridians who call the Sunshine State home and the many visitors from all over the world who support Florida’s growing economy. Florida has made tremendous strides in the past six years. Our economy has completely turned around because of our unrelenting focus on cutting taxes, reducing burdensome regulations and creating an environment where any job creator – from start-ups, to small businesses, to global corporations – can grow and succeed in Florida. Today, Florida’s hardworking businesses have added over 1.25 million jobs since December 2010, far surpassing our goal to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. While this is a great achievement, we can’t stop there. We have to fight for Florida’s future and ensure our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to succeed in our great state.

Our Fighting for Florida’s Future budget cuts taxes by $618 million to boost our economy and encourage both large and small businesses to create jobs and build opportunities for generations of Floridians. When jobs are created, it helps the poorest, most disadvantaged families who need a job the most. Included in our proposal is cutting the tax businesses pay on their commercial leases. Florida is the only state in the nation that has this tax and it unfairly targets small businesses.

Working with the Florida Legislature, we have cut $6.5 billion in taxes over the last six years. However, cutting taxes is not enough to ensure we have a strong economy for our future. We have to use every resource available to us to grow and retain jobs. That is why I am proposing funding and initiatives to ensure we can out-compete other states and nations for major jobs wins and help existing businesses in our state grow. I believe that those who oppose investing in growing Florida businesses simply don’t understand how businesses work. We need to compete for jobs here in Florida so we can diversify our economy for generations to come and not only rely on the tourism industry. It is important to point out that before I came into office, state incentives were often awarded before goals, like job creation, were met. But now, Florida companies only receive economic incentives after stringent requirements are met, including proven job growth and wage requirements that ensure a great return on investment for Florida families. This means NO FUNDS are given out as “corporate welfare.” Incentives are only awarded to companies who achieve their contractual goals of job creation or capital investment here in Florida.

The Fighting for Florida’s Future budget also makes strategic investments in our tourism industry to ensure we continue to welcome record visitors each year. Just last year, visitors spent more than $108 billion and generated more than $11 billion in state and local tax revenue. In addition, this important industry was responsible for nearly 1.4 million jobs that yielded more than $50 billion in income for the Floridians employed in this industry. Since 2011, over 250,000 jobs have been added in our tourism industry – growing annually at 4.5 percent. Tourism is the foundation of our great state and as these numbers show, it is a major contributor to the success of Florida. Not only does every 85 tourists support one Florida job, but tourism supports thousands of small businesses that rely on visitors. If we do not continue to prioritize investments in our tourism industry, our economy will suffer and jobs will be lost.

Since 2011, more than 1,000,000 people have moved to Florida because of our great schools, friendly business climate and beautiful weather. It is no surprise that Florida is the third largest state and fourth fastest growing state in the nation, and when more people move here, we have to continue to invest in areas that are important to families.

I am proud this year that we are able to once again invest historic amounts of funding in our K-12 education system, state colleges and universities.

We are also fighting to keep higher education affordable by holding the line on tuition for the fourth year, freezing all fees at our state colleges and universities, and capping tuition at our state colleges.

Teachers are key to preparing our future generations for great careers and we have to make investments to recruit and retain the best educators in our classrooms. This year, we are proposing $58 million in funding for teacher recruitment and retention initiatives, including $15 million to eliminate initial certification and renewal certification fees for teachers. This investment will save each of Florida’s aspiring teachers approximately $555 on their initial certification and each of Florida’s employed public school teachers $75 for their certification renewal.

We are also continuing to make historic strides to protect Florida’s lands and ensure that the future of our state’s pristine environment is beautiful for generations to come. Our Fighting for Florida’s Future budget invests nearly $4 billion in our environment, with record funding once again for our springs and $60 million for the new Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee Clean-Up Initiative.

With more and more people traveling our state, transportation is key to growing our economy and we are investing more than $10 billion for transportation infrastructure, with more than $178 million in our ports this year. Our ports are key to positioning Florida as the global hub for trade and encouraging economic ties with Latin America and beyond.

We are also focused on helping Florida’s most vulnerable by providing funding to remove everyone off of the critical needs waiting list at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities for the fourth consecutive year; help those with unique abilities get employment services; and make investments to help the frailest people on the Home Care for the Elderly program waiting list.

In 2016, our state’s preparedness efforts and law enforcement were put to the test like never before. Hurricanes Matthew and Hermine caused significant damage to many communities and especially to our world-class beaches. That is why our Fighting for Florida’s Future budget invests more than $61 million to address hurricane damage and repair and restore our beaches. This funding is in addition to the nearly $15.8 million authorized through Executive Orders 16-230 and 17-16 for state matching funds for emergency beach restoration projects bringing the total to $77 million.

In June, Florida came under attack when a terrorist, inspired by ISIS and filled with hate, stormed into Pulse Nightclub and killed 49 innocent people. We will never forget this tragic loss of innocent life. The Fighting for Florida’s Future budget proposes $5.8 million for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to hire 46 new employees dedicated to counterterrorism. This will better enable Florida to work hand-in-hand with local, state and federal intelligence agencies to establish a planned, deliberate and comprehensive effort in support of domestic security.

I have been in office long enough to know that every year there are always people who say we cannot afford to cut taxes, make strategic investments in areas that are important to families and provide savings to taxpayers. But, they are wrong. Since 2011, our state’s economy has grown by 24 percent. During this same time, our state general revenues have grown by $6.8 billion while we have cut taxes for Florida families by more than $6.5 billion and paid down more than $7.6 billion in debt.

Additionally, for Fiscal Year 2017-2018, total available General Revenues exceed the recurring base budget by $2.8 billion. We have the funds to fight for Florida’s future while wisely protecting tax dollars to ensure we get the best return on the investment of families’ hard-earned tax dollars.

We have fought so hard to turn our economy around, and now it is up to us to fight for our future generations. I have exactly 706 days left in office, and I will fight until my very last moment as Governor to make Florida the best place in the world for our future generations. It is incumbent on all of us to make Florida a better place and we have to make investments that help our children and grandchildren for decades to come.

Sincerely,

Governor Rick Scott's Signature

Governor Rick Scott