Marions United President Nancy Noonan's op-ed appeared in this morning's Ocala Star-Banner. In it, she discussed how the Florida legislature can close the current $3.2 billion dollar shortfall it faces and prevent any budget cuts to our schools.
Nancy took on House Speaker Larry Cretul's (R-Ocala) March 7th editorial where he failed to mention any methods of raising revenue to stop budget cuts. You can read the full op-ed here.
Does Cretul think he will balance Florida's budget on the backs of our children, teachers and schools by making deep cuts to major programs like public education? We hope not, because budget cuts are completely unnecessary.
Anyone who is familiar with Florida's public education system knows it cannot afford more budget cuts. Our state is already 50th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in per-capita funding. We have the results to show for our state's lack of investment: Florida has the third highest dropout rate in the nation and ranks 43rd in SAT scores and 48th in ACT scores. Last year, Marion County Public Schools narrowly avoided laying off 522 first- and second-year teachers. While Cretul and our legislators in Tallahassee pat themselves on the back for preserving public education dollars, it was mostly due to stimulus dollars from Washington, not any masterstroke of leadership on their part.At the end of the day, budget cuts are completely unnecessary.
But this year, Cretul and our representatives in Tallahassee will have to lead. Congress will not bail our state out again with a second stimulus. Fortunately, the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy has identified several areas where our state can raise the more than $3 billion required to ensure there are no cuts in this year's budget, particularly to our schools. Some of these items include modernizing our state's sales tax by removing unnecessary exemptions and eliminating unnecessary corporate income tax exemptions. And those are only selected recommendations. The reality is that Florida annually gives up $12 billion a year in potential sales tax revenues and another $20.9 billion in potential service tax revenues.