The one plus billion dollar surplus Florida was expecting in 2016 is dwindling. The latest estimate of new revenue is down by $400 million. Governor Scott wanted to give the surplus away in corporate tax reduction. He would also authorize more money for education, but it was supposed to come from local property taxes, not state revenue. The legislature has other ideas.
The legislature wants part of the new state revenue for education. The budget agreement that will go to the Governor increases the per student funding by about $50.
To complicate everything even more, money for school buildings comes from two other sources. Districts can raise some from local property taxes. Charter schools want access to that fund, but currently districts do not have to share the money. Since charter schools are privately owned, the district would not own those facilities even if they were to close. As a result, the legislature has been giving most of the state tax revenue on utilities to charters and public universities. This fund, called PECO is drying up.
How then is the state to support school facilities without making property taxes so high that voters complain? The latest idea reported in the News Service of Florida is for the state to issue bonds. This means the state would take on the debt to pay off the bonds while the Governor pursues his quest to minimize corporate taxes and use surplus revenue for his pet projects.
The Governor may veto issuing bonds for school facilities. Will he also veto the K12 per student funding increase? A high quality educational system is key for attracting the new business the Governor seeks. Yet, it is as if he wants something for nothing.