Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Tax Shift is Back

Florida satae Sen. Paula Dockery pressed Sen. Stephen Wise on how the teacher Merit Pay plan was going to be paid for. Wise stumbled and eventually admitted that the Florida legislature wasn't going to budget a penny for merit pay.

Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, pressed Wise on where the money would come from, and if the $700 million the state is receiving as part of federal stimulus money and part of the Race to the Top program would leave the state's education funding in the lurch after the federal money dries up.

"We need to be accountable to taxpayers. How far will the $700 million go?" Dockery asked.

Wise said that state statutes already require school districts to create their own year-end tests, and that money for the creation of new tests and for raises included in the bill would come from state's traditional funding mechanism for local school districts, the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP).

What Wise did with his bill is what I have called in the past a tax shift. Here is what I wrote about how former Gov. Jeb Bush forced local communities to raise property taxes to make up for the state's education cuts.

Wayne Garcia has noted that Floridians are displeased with higher taxes (see here and here.) Voters have reason to be. What Garcia fails to mention is this is a tax shift. By that, I mean local communities are forced to make up the money they would have gotten from the state. In 2005, Florida adjusted spending to $6,492 a year for each student. That was $1,200 less than the national average.

Jeb Bush has refused to adjust taxes to properly deal with growth and inflation. This had more to do with electability than ideology. Bush saw his father not get re-elected by breaking his "no new taxes" pledge. Sure Jeb has a distain for teachers' unions and public education. He's not honest enough to admit it. He knows he would have never done a second term. His vouchers program is so unpopular that only 700 students paticipate. He believes in the FCAT so much that he refused to have private schools tested. Bush has also manipulated graduation rates (see here and here.)

The Palm Beach Post also noted this in an op-ed.

In other words, school districts that already face budget cuts for next year - about $53 million, in Palm Beach County's case - will have to find money for a program they didn't want. If the districts don't find the money, the Legislature will blame them for failing to support good teachers, blocking education reform and undermining Florida's economic future. Or worse.

It's typical Tallahassee, which supports public education right up the point of paying for it.

Republicans in the Florida legislature force counties to raise property taxes and then tell voters what fiscal conservatives they are. It is disgusting.

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