Americans for Prosperity launches ’5 for Florida’ campaignby John Kennedy | June 22nd, 2012
A conservative group Friday said it is launching an election-year campaign aimed at getting political candidates to endorse dramatic changes to Florida’s public pension plans, its tax system and education.
Slade O’Brien, Florida director for Americans for Prosperity, said the organization will ask the public and those running for office this year to commit to promoting its “Five for Florida,” plan.
The five issues highlighted will make Florida the “most attractive state in the nation for families, businesses and entrepreneurs,” said O’Brien, who is based in Boca Raton.
The plan is posted on www.FiveforFlorida.com. A questionnaire seeking support for the proposals also is being sent to candidates. Results are to be posted on the AFP site.
AFP, which is supported in the project by the James Madison Institute, is calling for ending the state’s corporate income tax — a move O’Brien said will attract businesses. It would also create a level playing field for businesses when balanced with an end to corporate tax breaks and incentives.
AFP said Florida’s current tax policy is “dictated by cronyism.”
“Floridians are really clamoring for politicians who will be honest with them,” O’Brien said.
Another plank in ”Five for Florida,” would steer all new employees in the Florida Retirement System into 401(k)-style investment plans, away from the state’s traditional pension plan. The FRS recently received strong marks from the Pew Center on the States, but the groups Friday still warned that the fund is not adequately financed and looms as a potential problem for taxpayers.
Municipal pension plans, which are generally in worse shape than the FRS, also should push new workers into the investment plans to assure longterm solvency, said O’Brien and J. Robert McClure, president and CEO of the James Madison Institute.
McClure said the proposals included in “Five for Florida,” are “another tool in the toolbox for freedom.”
Americans for Prosperity, a grassroots activist organization, was founded by Charles Koch and part-time Palm Beacher David Koch, billionaire brothers who back of a host of conservative causes and whose Koch Industries is an oil services company.
AFP also is a mainstay of the tea party movement, which was a big supporter of Gov. Rick Scott in his 2010 election.
The pension overhaul and elimination of the state’s corporate income tax, which brings $1.8 billion into the state treasury, have also been advanced by Scott.
Other provisions of the platform unveiled Friday include a call for expanding charter schools and virtual education, and bringing more public scrutiny to state contracting and permitting at all levels of government. If the changes limit revenue flowing into public coffers, that’s OK, O’Brien said.
“We don’t want government to grow,” he said.