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Teacher Pay Raise and Tax Cuts Take Hit From Coronavirus

March 16th, 2020 by Jake Stofan

Lawmakers have agreed on a record $93.2 billion budget for the upcoming year, but in light of the coronavirus pandemic lawmakers weren’t able to meet all of their goals.

The coronavirus sprang up late in the Legislative session and quickly became a priority.

$52 million has been set aside to fight the virus through July first.

Lawmakers also agreed to add an additional $300 million to reserves as a safety net.

Florida TaxWatch is skeptical it will be enough.

“Governor Bush set aside six and a half almost seven billion dollars on a budget that was a fraction of what it is today and because of the very severe recession that was eaten up in about two years,” said Florida TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro.

Much of the money going into reserves came from reducing proposed tax cuts.

Originally lawmakers had hoped to slash $200 million, but settled for just $48 million creating only back to school and disaster preparedness sales tax holidays.

“We missed providing tax relief to small businesses that are going to be devastated by this pandemic,” said Calabro.

Lawmakers also had to settle on teacher pay raises, landing on $400 million to raise starting salaries and $100 million for veteran teachers.

“This was a downpayment. They recognize that they need to make a multi-year commitment to making progress on teacher salaries,” said Kevin Watson with the Florida Education Association.

The virus also has lawmakers taking their own precautions…

They will forgo the traditional Sine Die ceremony after they vote on the budget Thursday.

Legislative leaders will also be addressing the media via phone instead of in person.

But they could be back for a special session.

“This is evolving. This is not over,” said Calabro.

TaxWatch hopes if lawmakers do return for a special session, they’ll consider imposing internet sales tax on out of state online vendors, and consider tax cuts for small businesses.

Calabro says collecting the sales tax would increase revenues by at least $500 million a year.

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