Friday , 19 December 2014
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Plugging the state’s budget hole with stimulus money

The Florida House and Senate, controlled in the main by elected officials who vehemently oppose Washington’s stimulus packages as inflationary and spending beyond our ability to repay, are hypocritically looking to plug the hole in our proposed state budget with an anticipated $880 million in stimulus dollars from Washington, DC.

I have no problem with our elected officials in Tallahassee philosophically opposing the concept of excessive spending in our nation’s capital. But, I do strenuously object to their backdoor use of that same money to solve the problems that, in many ways, they created.

The members of our Florida Legislature did not create the employment problems facing our state. But, they seem to be doing little to help ease the problem. Basically, we must generate state income, reduce costs to balance our state’s budget, and create jobs.

Generating income at times can appear tricky.

A good example is the Senate’s cap on sales taxes as they apply to buying high priced boats. At first glance, the idea of capping sales taxes at $18,000 regardless of the purchase price seems to be a big gift to the yacht brokerage business. But the concept is sound as purchasers of expensive boats completely bypass paying a sales tax by going outside the state, establishing an investment corporation, and bringing the yacht back into Florida waters, sales tax free.

Contrast this with the sales tax exemptions on skyboxes at ballparks and football stadiums. You can’t go outside the state and buy a skybox and bring it back into the state as you can a yacht. So there is no excuse for not taxing skyboxes. The simple answer is to tax all goods and services in our state to generate income. Taxing all goods sold and services rendered could be offset by a reduction in the sales tax percentage because we would be generating so much money.

I know my attorney friends will object to this statement. But, do we really think that an unhappy couple will stay married rather than proceed with a divorce because they must pay a service tax on the legal fees required to end their marriage? Will we really stop creating new corporations because of a service tax? I don’t think so.

One major revenue for the state is the dollars generated by gambling. The Seminole tribe currently is paying the State of Florida $37.5 million a month for the privilege of running gambling establishments in the state. We receive $37.5 million a month, when 12.5 percent of our workforce is unemployed. Just think of the dollars we will receive when everyone is working. The legislature has a very difficult and delicate balancing act when granting gambling licenses to racetracks and kennel clubs around the state and at the same time not upsetting the Seminoles who would like to control 100 percent of the gambling in the state.

If the conservatives in Washington are successful in eliminating or at least greatly reducing the current spending levels, the anticipated $880 million in stimulus money needed to plug the hole in our state budget will disappear. It is time for a mental reconciliation between conservatives in Tallahassee and in Washington. Ladies and gentlemen, you can’t have it both ways.

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