Statement from Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute and government watchdog. “Florida TaxWatch commends Governor Scott for recommending to hold the line on total state spending and return money to taxpayers, while still proposing increased spending for important state priorities such as education. His FY 2014-15 budget proposal totals $74.19 billion, which is slightly less (0.06 percent) than current year spending of $74.24 billion. “The cornerstone of his ‘It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget’ is more than $570 million in recurring tax reductions and $69.2 million in one-time tax savings (see table below). These include saving nearly $25 per driver by reducing vehicle registration fees and relief for Florida businesses through an increased corporate income tax exemption, reduced filing fees, and a 0.5% reduction of sales tax on business rents. These tax cuts are broad, touching the lives of virtually every Floridian, from families to the businesses that support our communities and state as a whole. “In addition to returning tax dollars to hardworking Floridians, Governor Scott shows his commitment to Florida’s financial health by proposing $170 million to pay off the state’s $24.6 billion debt and including $287 million in budget savings. The proposed budget would leave total state reserves of $5.1 billion, including $1.7 billion in General Revenue. “Florida TaxWatch is pleased that the recommended budget includes implementation of many cost-savings recommendations from the TaxWatch Center for Government Efficiency. Since 2009, these cost saving recommendations have saved Florida taxpayers more than $4.2 billion in efficiency improvements at the state level. “Incorporated recommendations from this year’s report, Modern Management & Sensible Savings, include the creation of the Agency for State Technology with the resources and authority to consolidate IT governance throughout state government and save Florida taxpayers up to $20 million with only a one percent efficiency improvement. TaxWatch is encouraged that this highly valuable oversight agency is recommended by the Governor and supported by the Florida Senate and House of Representatives 2014 Work Plan. “Other recommendations stemming from TaxWatch research include an increase in tourism investment, investment in performance-based funding, requiring all state employees to contribute the same amount to their health insurance and expansion of electronic monitoring for prison inmates. “TaxWatch is pleased that the budget increased funding for Visit Florida by $36.5 million to an unprecedented $100 million annual investment. With $100 million, Florida could attract 100 million visitors to the state, resulting in an estimated 121,298 jobs for Floridians, according to the TaxWatch Investing In Tourism report. “A long standing TaxWatch recommendation, performance-based funding holds Florida’s higher-education institutions accountable, and will better help our education system prepare students for high-wage, high-skill jobs, promising economic growth and diversification in the Sunshine State.” Statement from John B. Zumwalt, III – Florida TaxWatch Chairman: “I am encouraged that the Governor’s proposed budget contains several Florida TaxWatch cost-savings recommendations. This budget is a good starting point for our state Legislature to create a spending plan that benefits all Florida taxpayers.” Florida TaxWatch is a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan research institute that over its 32-year history has become widely recognized as the watchdog of citizens’ hard-earned tax dollars. Its mission is to provide the citizens of Florida and public officials with high quality, independent research and education on government revenues, expenditures, taxation, public policies and programs and to increase the productivity and accountability of Florida state and local government. Its support comes from homeowners and retirees, small and large businesses, philanthropic foundations, and professional associations. On the web at www.FloridaTaxWatch.org.