Gov. Rick Scott continued his five-city “It’s Your Money” tax cut tour Thursday at Raymond James Stadium, where he discussed ideas to cut $500 million in taxes and fees from next year’s state budget.
Scott touted economic progress in Florida and highlighted the Tampa Bay area to a group of about 30 people. He said that because of the “turnaround,” he wants to give some of the surplus back to taxpayers.
“This area of the state in just 12 months has had the biggest increase in jobs in the state,” he said.
Behind Scott, posters displayed suggestions for possible tax cuts. For families, he listed car registration fees, property taxes, a communications services tax and another sales tax holiday. For job creators, another poster listed cuts like the business tax and sales tax on commercial leases.
He spent an hour fielding questions and suggestions from educators, real estate agents, students and business owners. State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, sat in on the discussion as well.
In particular, attendees focused on issues they’ve experienced while trying to attract businesses to the state.
Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Stuart Rogel talked with Scott about the sales tax on commercial leases, which no other state imposes.
“That’s a competitive disadvantage,” he said. “We’re trying to be competitive, to grow jobs and help businesses.”
Scott said that tax is on his radar.
Rogel also thanked Scott for considering putting money into things like education and health care because those investments help businesses.
“I never met a business person that said, ’Gosh, I’m interested in having a smaller business,’ ” Scott said. “If our taxes are higher, consumers are going to buy the product somewhere else.”
Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp said Scott’s attention to businesses will come out of the pockets of Florida families.
“He can fly around the state all he wants,” he said. “Until he commits to investing in public education and health care and the things people tell him they really want, he’s just wasting jet fuel.”
In addition to businesses, education funding was a common concern at the tour stop. Pasco County teacher Kenny Blankenship was one of a few guests who listed problem areas in schools, like broken air conditioning units and a shortage of textbooks.
“Our school districts are reeling from the cuts that have taken place,” he said.
Scott didn’t respond to Blankenship and others who asked if more money would be put back into education next year. He referred to recent money spent on schools, like $480 million to ensure teacher pay raises. He also mentioned that he has increased state funding to education by more than $1 billion each of the past two years since cutting it in 2011.
Another part of Scott’s plan to grow the economy is converting tourists into property owners, he said, noting that the state expects 95 million tourists this year.
“We’ve got to figure out how to brag about our state,” Scott said.
Don DeFosset of the Tampa Sports Authority, the company that manages Raymond James Stadium, thanked Scott for his plan to cut taxes.
“A lot of governors would say, ’Gee, maybe I can spend a little more and save a little,’ ” DeFosset said. “You’re going about it exactly the right way.”
Scott will finish the tour Friday in Orlando.