Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Education, Tax Issues Loom as Legislature Start Nears

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Education, Tax Issues Loom as Legislature Start Nears

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage, Times-Union columnist

Spinning around the news dial ... click.

In the immortal words of political guru and philosopher Jimmy Ray Bob, "What the heck?"

As he does every year before the beginning of the legislative session, Gov. Jeb Bush earlier this week repeated that education is No. 1 on his hit parade and proposed lavishing $726 million more on school spending in these tough economic times because education "is our highest priority as it relates to funding."

Democrats and people in the education field immediately labeled the lavishness as being more akin to Scrooge's penny-pinching before he became a good guy.

Their analysis is this: The $726 million in new money is a mirage because operating costs will increase with inflation and the infusion of 72,000 new students into the system. Plus the $300 million budget hole left after cuts were made in the last legislative special session has to be filled.

Their bottom line: Instead of a bonanza, public schools would get about $190 million less in real dollars than they did this year.

Bush, for his part, insists the increase in spending is real and discourages overanalyzing the figures.

Well, analysis is needed. Would someone please do the definitive math here and set the record straight, preferably someone who isn't a product of a school system that consistently ranks as low as Florida's.

Click.

Here are some other numbers you should be aware of as the Legislature begins meeting later this month.

Senate President John McKay is going boldly where few Republicans dare to go and is proposing major tax reform.

He suggests it would be wise to expand and stabilize the state's tax base by eliminating many of the myriad sales tax exemptions that have been handed out to special interest groups over the years.

As it stands now, the state collects about $15 billion annually in sales tax, while another $21 billion is exempted. …

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