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Scott signs package of tax cuts, rounding out election-year, $500M-plus giveback

Monday, May 12th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Monday a $121 million package of election-year tax cuts — including breaks on everything from hurricane- and back-to-school supplies to kids’ bike helmets and car seats.

The signing — at the state’s annual Hurricane Conference in Orlando — brings to more than $500 million the total on the tax-and-fee reductions approved by lawmakers. The Republican governor earlier put the give-backs on the top of his legislative wish list.

“This year we worked to promote a $500 million reduction in taxes and fees because Florida families should keep more of the money they earn,” Scott said.

Scott already signed into law last month a $395 million rollback of motorist fees approved in 2009 under former Gov. Charlie Crist. The former Republican governor now is challenging Scott as a Democrat, giving that reduction some extra political mileage.

Record big budget could make big target for election-year Scott

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014 by John Kennedy

The Florida Legislature approved a strain of medical marijuana, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants and the last piece of a $500 million package of tax-and-fee cuts Friday as it skidded toward the finish line of the 2014 session.

Following a frenzied last day of deal-making between the chambers, the House and Senate then both approved the $77.1 billion budget – the largest in state history — in lopsided votes after 10 p.m. and adjourned at 10:40 p.m.

The House voted 102-15 in favor of the budget and sent to the Senate, which approved it unanimously.

“I hope you’re as proud about this budget as I am,” said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla. “I’m going to go home and brag about what we’ve done.”

House Democrats, however, said the spending plan shorted school funding and failed to help those without health insurance.

“There’s an opportunity to be great,” said House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston. “This doesn’t do it.”

Full story here:  bit.ly/1od67M5

Amid a flurry of hometown spending, budget deal done

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The final touches to a roughly $75 billion state budget were settled Monday by House and Senate negotiators, clearing the way for an on-time finish this week to the 2014 Legislature.

A $1.2 billion surplus from the state’s improving economy eased spending decisions by budget-writers as they raced toward Friday’s session-end deadline.

But the extra cash also allowed lawmakers to steer millions of state dollars toward hometown projects – for arts programs, social services, water projects and college buildings. Many likely face the threat of Gov. Rick Scott’s veto pen.

“The budget isn’t about numbers, it’s about values and priorities,” said Senate Budget Chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, telegraphing a theme lawmakers will likely use in urging Scott to go light on vetoes this election year.

Negron and his House counterpart, Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, worked through the weekend settling a host of education, health care, transportation and environmental issues that had divided the two sides.

Among the last issues settled Monday were spending for college and university construction and almost $74 million scattered across some 200 water projects across the state.

In the mix, $6 million for Palm Beach State College’s long-sought Loxahatchee Groves campus – vetoed three times in recent years by Scott and his predecessor, Gov. Charlie Crist – and several wastewater projects in Belle Glade, Riviera Beach and Royal Palm Beach.

With a late-night huddle, House, Senate all but button-up budget talks

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The House and Senate all-but buttoned up a roughly $75 billion state budget late Sunday night, but still face another day of haggling over language that will implement the 2014-15 spending plan.

House Budget Chief Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, and Senate counterpart Joe Negron, R-Stuart, took part in public meetings twice Sunday — the last gaveled in shortly after 11 p.m. Agreements covered a range of education, health care and environmental issues that had been separating the two sides.

In one of the biggest budget areas — public school spending — lawmakers settled on a 2.6 percent per-pupil increase for Florida’s 2.7 million school kids. That should boost spending by about $175 per-student to around $6,935, still below the state’s pre-recession level of $7,126 reached in 2007-08.

The funding level is less than what the House originally proposed — at 3 percent, but about where the Senate originally recommended. Both sides beat Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed 2.5 percent increase.

With a budget surplus of $1.2 billion, spending decisions were made easier. But lawmakers are still racing toward a Tuesday deadline of having the final budget before lawmakers so a constitutionally required 72-hour waiting period can pass before a vote Friday, the session’s last scheduled day.

Other deals Sunday included the House going along with the Senate on the bulk of environmental spending, including $47 million for beach restoration,$73.9 million for hometown water projects and $22.8 million for springs preservation work, less than half the $55 million sought by Scott.

$10 million for quiet zones cash tucked into state spending plan

Sunday, April 27th, 2014 by John Kennedy

House budget chief Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, and his Senate counterpart, Joe Negron, R-Stuart, huddle before Sunday conference meeting.

House and Senate budget negotiators agreed Sunday to create a $10 million grant program to pay for railroad crossing upgrades needed in Palm Beach County and elsewhere in anticipation of the passenger rail project All Aboard Florida.

The Senate earlier proposed the spending for the so-called quiet zones. But its fate was uncertain until Sunday when the House signed-off on the plan amid talks aimed at settling a $75 billion state budget for 2014-15.

Elected officials from throughout the coastal areas of Palm Beach County, working largely through the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization, had asked the state for help the work needed.

The express private service would run from Miami to Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. But the added 32 trains a day have residents and business owners near the Florida East Coast Railroad tracks worried about noise, traffic congestion and boating delays.

The $2.5 billion rail project – whose price tag recently spiked – is already controversial.

While the quiet zone provision was tucked into the Senate budget by Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, Senate Budget Chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, on Sunday reiterated that the spending should not be taken as support for the project.

“I haven’t come around to that,” Negron said. “There’s support in the Legislature for quiet zones so there’s money…but it’s not money I personally advocated for. There is agreement on the amount.”

Negron advice on budget talks: ‘Don’t leave the Capitol’

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 by John Kennedy

Millions of dollars in hometown water projects along with money for cleanup of the Everglades and troubled Indian River Lagoon were among the big ticket issues separating House and Senate budget negotiators as they worked toward a midnight deadline Wednesday.

The bottom-line for public schools and terms of the state’s plan to distribute $200 million in performance incentives to Florida’s 12 public universities still separates the two sides, working since Monday on reaching a consensus $75 billion budget for 2014-15.

The dozens of issues that are certain to remain unsettled will be handed over to House budget chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, and his Senate counterpart, Joe Negron, R-Stuart, on Thursday. They’ll begin more deal-making that will stretch through the weekend.

“One thing you learn when you get to Tallahassee is you don’t leave the Capitol building the weekend before session ends, because one of your projects may have been traded for someone who is still in the Capitol,” Negron said. “We’ll be working over the weekend and, of course, the presiding officers will have the last word on the budget.”

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, have until Tuesday to button-up the spending plan. That would start the clock on the state’s constitutionally required 72-hour waiting period preceding a May 2 vote, the session’s final scheduled day.

The House spends $13 million more than the Senate on three-dozen local water projects, including money sought for work in Palm Beach County. The House also spends $12 million more than the Senate on freshwater springs protection — but the overall level on both sides still falls short of what Gov. Rick Scott wants.

Work on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee — close to Negron’s home district — draws at least $82 million in the Senate, but would get nothing in the House spending plan. Scores of differences also remain on hometown projects close to top lawmakers, including cash for theaters, schools, and social service programs.

“Some of the projects will fall out during conference, some will be added,” Negron said.

Budget talks open, with Gaetz calling for “businesslike schedule”

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by John Kennedy

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz kicked off budget negotiations between the two sides Monday, predicting mostly smooth and swift-running talks toward completing a roughly $75 billion election-year spending plan.

The House and Senate have about a week to complete a process that usually takes at least twice that time. Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the Legislature’s absence last week for the Passover-Easter holidays will force a “very businesslike schedule” for the session’s homestretch.

“This is not a partisan exercise,” Gaetz said. “We’re in this together.”

The session is scheduled to end May 2. But because the constitution requires that the final budget proposal sit for 72 hours before a vote takes place, Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said an agreement is likely needed to be reached by next Tuesday.

A tax-and-fee cut package of $500 million, also sought by Gov. Rick Scott, has been agreed-on, although details of about $100 million worth of givebacks still must be settled. Public school dollars are close, with a per-pupil increase of about 3 percent likely.

But spending on dozens of hometown projects and big-ticket environmental proposals like Everglades restoration, waterway and springs cleanup loom as some of the biggest differences between the two sides.

The House and Senate approved dueling budgets earlier this month that now must be reconciled.  Both sides topped the $74.2 billion blueprint Gov. Rick Scott rolled out in January.

The Senate would spend $74.8 billion, while the House weighs in at $75.3 billion. Each would prove the largest spending plans in state history.

In a year of budget plenty, waiting lists for elderly, disabled trimmed only a little

Sunday, April 13th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Despite a year of plenty for state lawmakers, with overall spending almost certain to hit record levels, relatively meager increases proposed for elderly and disabled programs do little to scale back the massive backlog of Floridians seeking aid.

The state’s waiting lists for elderly long-term health services, community care, Alzheimer’s Disease assistance and help for people with disabilities would shrink by only modest percentages, despite a $1.2 billion surplus of state revenue fueling rival $75 billion House and Senate budget proposals.

Lawmakers are touting this year’s plan to spend roughly $37 million to reduce the number of elderly Floridians awaiting services. But legislators acknowledge the line won’t really be shortened by much.

With the nation’s largest number of people over age 65, Florida has a 9,000-person waiting list for community care services that help keep the elderly in their homes. Advocates say the number of people seeking services could actually be more than three times that.

But in its budget, House is looking to take 751 people off the waiting list; the Senate would add 601 Floridians for care.

Either way, less than 10 percent of those seeking coverage will gain services.

“This is penny-wise and pound-foolish not to spend more,” said David Bruns, spokesman for AARP-Florida. “The cost of people going into nursing homes is so much more. But (legislators) are taking such a small step.”

Full story here:  bit.ly/1kUJURa

 

House and Senate budgets roll out — topping Scott’s blueprint

Friday, March 21st, 2014 by John Kennedy

The House unveiled it’s 2014-15 state budget proposal Friday, following the Senate’s release a day earlier and setting the legislative session on course for the homestretch haggling.

Both proposals top the $74.2 billion blueprint Gov. Rick Scott rolled out in January. The Senate would spend $74.8 billion, while the House weighs in at $75.3 billion. Each would prove the largest spending plans in state history.

In an election year, lawmakers usually look favorably on school spending and this year’s no different. Still, neither hit the $1 billion increases that marked the last two years of state spending following a $1.3 billion cut for schools during Scott’s first year as governor.

While Scott earlier recommended a $542 million boost for K-12, the Senate is calling for a $651 million boost and the House $740.8 million more. The Legislature has been helped by new revenue projections, which fattened the state’s budget surplus to $1.2 billion.

The per-pupil increase of 3 percent in the House surpasses the 2.5 percent Scott called for, and the 2.6 percent emerging from the Senate.

Still, the per-pupil amount next year still looks certain to be a couple hundred dollars below the record $7,126 achieved in 2007-08, before the state’s economy tanked with the recession.

Legislature’s budget work begins, flush with cash and kumbaya

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The Florida House took the first step toward crafting the 2014-15 state budget Thursday by allocating lump-sum dollars to various subcommittees who soon will start making line-by-line spending recommendations.

There are few surprises.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, hinted that his chamber was closely aligned with Rick Scott’s push for at least $500 million in tax-and-fee reductions and virtually the same $542 million increase in school spending sought by the governor. The $1.2 billion in budget reserves set aside also is about the same as the current year.

“Due to improved economic conditions and the continued fiscal constraint of the Legislature, our state is well on the road to financial recovery,” Weatherford said in a statement accompanying the budget allocations.

“It remains vitally important to maintain the disciplined fiscal principles that led us to where we are today but also recognize that the state can now afford to return revenues to the taxpayer in addition to funding state priorities,” he added.

Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, have acknowledged they are seeking to avoid political drama this session, just months before a pivotal election in which the Republican Party’s 16-year command of the governor’s office could be in jeopardy.

Spending decisions also were made easier Wednesday when state economists increased by $150 million the amount of projected revenue that is available to dole out next year.

Finally, the kumbaya was complete when both sides Thursday came to virtual agreement on a $400 million reduction in motorist fees first recommended by Scott. The Senate had been promoting a smaller cut — about $230 million — but, like the House and governor, came around to the higher figure.

“I’m pleased that as the bill moved through the committee process, we gained support within the Senate to increase the amount and scope of this needed reduction in fees,” said Senate Budget Chair Joe Negron, R-Stuart. ” I’m grateful to Gov. Scott and our colleagues in the House for their leadership on this important issue.”

 

House budget panel advances idea of tech czar

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The House budget committee Wednesday approved creating a new chief information officer for the state of Florida, consolidating a range of hardware and software  duties under a tech czar reporting to the governor.

The state currently spends $733 million annually on information technology without significant coordination, said Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland. Most agencies operate their own data centers and critics say the current set-up is costlier to taxpayers and has led to some major department misfires.

The state’s Department of Economic Opportunity has been battling with technology giant Deloitte Consulting LLP over the state’s $63 million unemployment web site, problem-plagued since its debut last October. While a high-profile tech snafu, DEO’s woes aren’t alone.

A state technology contract for recouping Medicaid overpayments also has been troubled in recent years. Even the Legislature has spent heavily on public information websites it later scrapped.

Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, said the state not having a centralized technology department is laughable — something, he said that private companies in the 1980s saw a need for. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, also said the $70 billion-plus state government demands more efficiency.

“I can’t imagine a business the size of this business that doesn’t have an IT governance structure,” Baxley said.

The House proposal, labeled a priority by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, would create a 27-person Agency for State Technology, whose executive director would report directly to the governor. First-year costs would be $3.2 million.

The Senate is looking at a similar proposal.

While it would seem to place a huge volume of technology contracts more directly under the governor, lawmakers from both parties praised the approach.

Indeed, McKeel sounded the only sour notes Wednesday — saying that he was so frustrated by the actions of the state’s Department of Management Services, that he wanted them removed from the sole authority of Gov. Rick Scott and placed under the control of the governor and Cabinet.

DMS, the state’s main purchasing agent, has run afoul of McKeel on several issues, including the technology proposal. While McKeel withdrew his amendment redirecting authority of the agency Wednesday, he warned that he may make another attempt if DMS doesn’t shape up.

Scott’s latest tax cut proposal pushes givebacks over $600 million

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott unveiled another tax cut proposal Tuesday — a $104 million reduction in the sales tax on business rents.

Scott, who promised a $500 million overall reduction in fees and taxes this election year, has so far floated five different proposed cuts that add up to about $618 million in savings, according to the governor’s math.

The growing level of givebacks may earn Scott some resistance in the Legislature, where some lawmakers appear initially underwhelmed with his proposal for school funding and also want to maintain a large budget reserve.

Scott promoted the break for business rentals at an Ace Hardware Store in Orlando, a day before he plans to roll out his full budget recommendation to the Legislature for the 2014-15 year.

While reducing the 6 percent state sales tax on commercial leases appears to be Scott’s final tax-cut pitch, the governor heard the request from many business leaders last fall when he embarked on a four-day listening tour seeking ideas for trimming taxes.

Scott opened his tour in September in West Palm Beach, where Palm Beach County Business Development Board President Kelly Smallridge brought up the tax.

“Whenever we’re courting a company to come to the state of Florida and Palm Beach County, they’re taking a look at these real estate taxes on leases and we’re one of the only states that has a tax on commercial leases,” Smallridge said.

 

Scott schools’ budget big — but maybe not that big

Monday, January 27th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Scott's per-pupil dollars not mentioned in rollout.

Gov. Rick Scott’s election-year education budget, unveiled Monday in Delray Beach, is touted as including record amounts of spending for Florida schools, colleges and universities.

But one basic numbers remains elusive.

What is Scott’s per-pupil funding for K-12 students?

It wasn’t touched on by Scott or his staff — and may loom as a basic measurement that may not measure up to the biggest ever.

The state’s all-time mark for per-pupil spending was reached in 2007-8, when then-Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law a budget which included average, per-pupil spending of $7,126 for Florida’s roughly 2.7 million school kids.

The recession and budget-cutting blew a hole in that figure. It dropped to a recent low of $6,217 in Scott’s first year as governor — when he cut school spending by $1.3 billion.

Since then, back-to-back years of billion-dollar increases in school spending have brought per-pupil spending back up. But this year’s average $6,776 remains $350 short of the record reached under Crist, now Scott’s leading Democratic opponent in this fall’s governor’s race.

Scott has included a few items in his budget that appear intended to take a swipe at Crist. His $401 million motorist fee cut is the most noteworthy, since it erases a fee hike signed into law by Crist. Monday afternoon, Scott planned to make an appearance in Miami to tout a sales-tax holiday on hurricane-related purchases, last deployed by the state when Crist was governor.

On schools, the record for per-pupil spending was something many thought Scott was aiming at.

Last year, Scott proposed a $1.2 billion boost in school spending, which would have increased per pupil spending by $412. But based on that math, the $542 million increase he recommended Monday is likely to bring per-pupil spending to just around $7,000 — still below the mark reached in the good times by his Democratic nemesis.

Scott budget proposal to touch all election-year bases

Sunday, January 26th, 2014 by John Kennedy

More money for the environment, schools and Florida’s top industries will be packaged with a big slug of fee cuts in the election-year budget proposal that Gov. Rick Scott is poised to release this week.

The Republican executive, who entered office eager to shrink state government, appears to have recast himself with this, the fourth and final budget recommendation of his first term.

After weeks of teasing out key portions, Scott plans to unveil the full spending document Wednesday at the Capitol. But Scott strategists early on settled on its bumper-sticker title, the “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget.”

“When Governor Scott took office, he inherited the mess Charlie Crist left him,” Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry said of Scott’s predecessor, the former GOP governor turned Democratic rival.

“The governor first had to stop the bleeding. But now, things are turning around, and he can give back.”

Instead of proposing deep cuts to state spending—as he did his first year as chief executive —Scott is scattering cash across sectors whose advocates are pivotal to his re-election hopes.

Full story here:  bit.ly/1dHtBkZ

 

Scott to call for 15-day hurricane sales tax holiday

Sunday, January 26th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott will announce Monday that he wants a 15-day sales tax holiday on flashlights, tarps and other supplies related to hurricane preparedness.

The sales-tax holiday proposal is the latest in a series of rollouts the governor has been doing before unveiling his full 2014-15 budget proposal Wednesday. In an event Monday at Delray Beach’s Spady Elementary School, he also is expected to showcase one of the budget’s biggest provisions — his school spending plan for next fall.

The hurricane sales tax holiday would save taxpayers about $20 million, according to the governor’s office.

Similar hurricane holidays were earlier held in 2006 and 2007, after the state was whacked by a series of bad storms. The 2007 holiday was signed into law by Scott’s predecessor, former Gov. Charlie Crist, then a Republican but who now looms as Scott’s Democratic rival for re-election.

Scott plans to make the hurricane-related announcement at a lumber store in Miami’s Coconut Grove.

Scott has promised to recommend cutting taxes and fees by $500 million in his budget proposal, including a proposed sales-tax holiday on back-to-school shopping. But the bulk of the proposed savings, $401 million, would come from his plan to eliminate increases on a wide range of motorist fees that were approved in 2009 when Crist was governor.

Scott to cut corporate filing fees

Friday, January 24th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that he wants to cut the state’s corporate filing fees by $33 million — another piece of the state budget he plans to roll out next week.

The $33 million giveback comes on top of a $401 million reduction in motorist fees he proposed earlier.

“Today’s announcement puts more money back into the pockets of business owners and entrepreneurs across this great state, so they can make investments and grow more jobs,” Scott said.

Scott’s plan would reduce 50 different corporate filing fees and shrink the penalties imposed on late filings. Some of the fees Scott is targeting were last boosted in 2009, when Democratic rival Charlie Crist was the state’s Republican governor. That was the year the motorist fees also were cranked up by Crist and lawmakers looking to close a budget gap.

Scott ups the election-year ante with 10-day tax-free holiday

Friday, January 17th, 2014 by John Kennedy

With a budget surplus and election year facing him, Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that he is proposing a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday this year — upping the three-day tax-exempt periods approved the past four years.

“By creating this holiday, we’ll help Floridians keep more of their money, while helping prepare every Florida student for another school year,” Scott said of his proposal, unveiled before a Florida Chamber of Commerce event in Orlando.

Tax-free items would include clothing valued at less than $100, school supplies costing under $15, and computers and related equipment costing less than $750. The overall value of the tax-free period would be about $60 million, Scott said.

The idea still has to be embraced by the Legislature, which begins the two-month session March 4. But with a $1.1 billion budget surplus, Scott has already mapped out plans to cut motor vehicle fees by $401 million and is likely to propose another increase in public school funding similar to last year’s $1 billion boost.

 

With cash on hand, Scott recommends boosting transportation spending

Monday, January 13th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Keeping with a theme, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday said he plans to propose an increase in state transportation spending when he unveils his state budget plan in coming weeks.

Scott last week announced he was looking to boost spending on tourism to $100 million, up from $63 million currently. In transportation, in an event at the Port of Jacksonville, Scott said Monday that he’ll recommend $8.8 billion in state spending — a $200 million boost from the 2013-14 budget.

Within the set-aside, Scott said $138.9 million should go to seaport improvements.

“From construction jobs to increased trade opportunities, transportation projects provide tremendous job and economic benefit,” Scott said. “This investment will enable our state to remain competitive for many years to come.”

After years of budget cutting, Florida is on track for a $1.1 billion surplus in the coming election year. Scott looks poised to spread the cash around, having already recommend $500 million in tax and fee cuts.

With tax receipts rising, Florida’s treasury a little fatter for election year

Friday, December 6th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Tax collections are flowing into the state treasury at a faster clip than expected, giving Florida lawmakers an extra $321.4 million to spend next year, economists said Friday.

After six years of budget-cutting, this year’s $74.1 billion blueprint was the first where Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature didn’t face a shortfall.

But sales tax receipts have spiked over the past few months, powering the extra cash heading into a 2014 election year where the state of Florida’s economy looms as a central campaign theme.

Still, economists were cautious with their praise.

“It’s very modest, but it’s definitely positive,” said Amy Baker, coordinator for the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research and part of the panel that made Fridays’ forecast.

Full story here:   http://bit.ly/19nkiFV

 

Larry Fuchs, longtime revenue director and critic, dead at 71

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 by John Kennedy

Larry Fuchs, who served as Florida Revenue Director under four governors, died Friday in Tallahassee. He was 71.

Fuchs led the Revenue Department as an interim director in 1990, returning full-time in 1992 through 1999. He retired from state government the next year.

Fuchs was a plain spoken critic of the state’s tax system, complaining that it had grown increasingly inadequate in meeting the needs of a fast-growing and evolving economy. While most agency heads shun the spotlight — especially in matters that could put their bosses in controversial spots — Fuchs seemed to enjoy shaking things up.

Fuchs famously posed on the cover of Florida Trend magazine in 1999 with his pants pockets pulled out under a headline that read, “We’re Broke.”

At the time, Fuchs was warning that commerce was migrating to the Internet even as the state continued to rely on a sales tax system that takes in less than it exempts.

Fast-forward, and Fuchs’ screed still sounds fresh. In the last budget year, Florida collected $20.3 billion in sales tax revenue, while exempting $29.3 billion in goods and services from tax.  In addition, an estimated $450 million in Internet sales also went untaxed.

Fuchs, though, was mindful of the political realities in a state led by fiscal conservatives. Term limits also shorten the horizon, keeping most lawmakers from considering  big change.

In a story last year in the Palm Beach Post he acknowledged, “”I’m a notorious cynic, but I don’t see anything right now that can possibly force change.”

In retirement, Fuchs became a well-known fine art photographer. He also was president of the board of a Tallahassee arts center, where he put his revenue skills to work in guiding it through a financial crisis.

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