In the $82.349 billion state budget approved last week, the Legislature enacted various TaxWatch recommended bills that will improve the future for the state and its residents, including:
Permanently extending the sales tax exemption on manufacturing equipment, which will boost Florida’s manufacturing industry, provide high-wage jobs for Floridians and diversify the state economy.
Creating a Telehealth Advisory Council to make recommendations in forming a regulatory framework for Florida. Florida TaxWatch appreciates that the Legislature made a small step in addressing telehealth expansion in Florida but the legislation does not do enough in broadening access and lowering health care costs for millions of Floridians.
Expanding scope of practice for advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) and physician assistants (PAs), which would significantly lower costs for patients while improving access across the state. We hope the Legislature will continue to expand scope of practice in the 2017 session. TaxWatch research has found that if state ARNPs and PAs were permitted to practice to the full extent of their training and education, the state could save up to $339 million across the entire health care system.
Various smart justice reforms, including increased use of veteran and drug courts, adult alternative sanctioning and expunging juvenile records, which will reduce recidivism, improve job prospects for ex-offenders and result in cost-savings for the state.
Better integrating the state’s mental health and substance abuse services to improve access to care for Floridians suffering from complex behavioral health issues.
Several bills regarding other TaxWatch recommendations unfortunately did not make it to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.
The business rent tax (BRT) is unique to Florida, which is the only state that taxes commercial leases, preventing businesses and start-ups from expanding. The House tax-cut package originally had a cut to the BRT from 6 percent to 5 percent in fiscal year 2016-17. This provision was not included in the final package.
Properly deployed economic development incentives are crucial to ensuring that Florida is able to compete with peer states. These incentives help bring businesses to the state, leading to the creation of jobs, more stable incomes, and an increasingly diverse economy. A major component of improving the economic incentive programs was $250 million for the Enterprise Florida Fund. This was dropped from consideration during budget conferences by both the House and Senate.
Legislation reforming Florida’s public records also died during the session. A TaxWatch report calling for reform to stop bad actors from taking advantage of open-government laws noted that the public’s right for transparency and accountability in government is in jeopardy.
While Florida remains the best place in the nation to live, work and learn, lawmakers must continue to curtail wasteful spending while investing our taxpayers’ dollars wisely. Lawmakers will not begin their work on next year’s budget until later this year, but Floridians should offer their thoughts and ideas. To find your state lawmaker, click here.
Dominic Calabro is the President & CEO of Florida TaxWatch, the state’s premier taxpayer watchdog for more than 35 years. Column courtesy of Context Florida.