Rick Scott: Increase K-12 funding; reiterates corporate tax proposal

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Gov. Rick Scott is saying he wants lawmakers to increase spending in the K-12 education budget as he prepares to lay out a spending plan later this month. Scott has said repeatedly that he hoped the Legislature would at least hold the line on K-12 spending, but on Friday he indicated he likely will recommend an increase. “We’re still working on the number, but my focus is on increasing funding for K-through-12,” Scott said during a brief interview with the News Service of Florida.

If lawmakers were to increase spending on public school education it would come on top of a more than $1 billion increase last year, but critics have noted that that increase only replaced money that was cut during Scott’s first year in office. Scott, who is planning to seek re-election in 2014, has talked extensively about education in recent months, and made a tour of schools seeking input from teachers and parents on what they’d like to see happen in the public school system.

Scott also repeated on Friday an earlier proposal, to create a program where teachers would get debit cards tied to the school system with which they could purchase supplies. Scott said one of the biggest problems teachers have told him about is that they often spend their own money on school supplies.

Another proposal Scott outlined was his plan to include an increase in the exemption for corporate income taxes in his budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. He said an increase in the exemption to $75,000 from the current $50,000 would allow around 2,000 additional businesses, or about another 5 percent of the state’s corporations, to avoid paying the tax.

Already, about 75 percent of Florida companies don’t pay anything. “I want to get it up to about 80 percent, and eventually I want to eliminate it, so I want to continue to make progress every year,” Scott said.

Lawmakers have approved increases in the exemption for two straight years, finding another way to work towards Scott’s promise in the 2010 campaign that he would phase out the levy by gradually lowering the rate.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.