Gov. Rick Scott said over and over that he could do what others thought was impossible -- cut the $3.6 billion required to balance the state budget, and cut billions more to lower taxes.
Scott promised an initial round of cuts to the corporate income tax and the local school property tax rate. And then he said he would deliver a second round as part of his comprehensive plan to create 700,000 private-sector jobs in seven years.
We weighed the corporate tax cut promise in a separate Scott-O-Meter item. Here, we're talking about Scott's plan to cut school property taxes, which is called the required local effort.
Scott said in his 7-7-7 plan that he would "reduce the statewide property tax (Required Local Effort) by $1.4 billion" -- which he figured to be the equivalent of a 19 percent cut.
Scott then promised another cut phased in over seven years for an additional $1.4 billion.
To be clear, that's two cuts over seven years totaling $2.8 billion. One cut to come quickly, another to slowly be phased in.
On Feb. 7, 2011, Scott released his first two budgets for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. Each budget includes cuts to the required local effort, but not to the level Scott promised.
We'll walk you through the governor's office version of the numbers first. Then ours.
Scott says he has proposed school property tax cuts of nearly $1.1 billion over two years -- $507.6 million in 2011-2012 and $572 million in 2012-2013. You can see a chart from the governor's office detailing the tax cuts by clicking here.
But Scott's tax cut figure takes some mathematical liberties. The cut is really $507.6 million in 2011-2012 and then about $64.4 million in 2012-2013 -- for a total of $572 million. Let us explain by showing you the actual figures from the current budget, and Scott's proposals for the next two years.
In the current 2010-2011 budget, school boards are required to collect nearly $7.2 billion through the required local effort. See it for yourself on Page 21 of the budget.
That number drops, as expected, in Scott's 2011-2012 budget to about $6.5 billion. But rather than drop again in the 2012-2013 proposal, the figure actually increases to about $6.6 billion. You can see both of those figures on Page 11 of Scott's proposed two-year spending plan. In short, Scott is proposing to cut the required local effort this year, but leave it about the same in 2012-2013.
Effectively, here's how his plan would work for taxpayers:
If a homeowner paid taxes of $100 as part of the required local effort in 2010, that homeowner would receive around a 10 percent tax cut in 2011. In 2012, that homeowner's tax bill would remain about the same, depending on how property values change.
Now, back to the heart of Scott's promise. Here's what Scott proposed, verbatim:
"Reduce the statewide property tax (RLE) by $1.4 billion (from 5.29 mills to 4.29 mills, a 19% reduction in RLE). Savings from other key components of my 7 step plan will be used to replace those funds so not $1 is shifted away from our schools."
As we know, and already have reported, Scott's budget will cut $3.3 billion to $4.8 billion in education funding. Scott has said the loss is due to expiring federal funds that he will not replace. That alone could rate this a Promise Broken. But his budget plan doesn't match his campaign rhetoric.
Scott promised to initially cut the statewide property tax by $1.4 billion or 1 mill. And then he said he would phase in an additional $1.4 billion, 1 mill cut over seven years. His initial cut over his first two years is somewhere around $600 million, which is far less than $1.4 billion and far less than 1 mill -- which is valued at $1.37 billion.
Scott budget chief Jerry McDaniel admitted in testimony to a Senate budget committee on Feb. 9, 2011, that the cut to the required local effort would amount to an 8 percent rate reduction -- dropping the tax rate from about 5.3 mills to 4.9 mills.
Even using his interpretation, on the first mill and the first $1.4 billion, Scott is short.
By ours, woefully so. And schools are going to take the hit after all.
We rate this a Promise Broken.