Guest column: Florida: Raise the Stakes

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By Dominic M. Calabro

Tallahassee

President and CEO

Florida TaxWatch

Gov. Rick Scott: We see your $500 million, and raise you $500 million.

The governor has proposed a $500 million tax cut for Floridians this year, and legislative leaders are working in Tallahassee to pick apart the budget and find a way to pass those savings onto Floridians.

Determining where to pull the funding for a multi-million tax cut can be difficult. Elected officials have to weigh priorities, and decide which programs get their funding reduced to pay for the savings.

But this February, the Legislature could avoid making those tough choices.

A recent Florida TaxWatch report identified more than $1 billion in efficiency improvements and cost savings that Florida could adopt this year. The savings from implementation of these recommendations would be more than enough to cover the cost of a $500 million tax cut, and best of all, no state services would be eliminated or reduced. In fact, the Legislature could double the proposed tax cut and still avoid making tight budget decisions that would affect public programs.

Florida TaxWatch has been checking for cost-saving opportunities for the past five years without slashing services. Many of our cost savings and efficiency improvements have been implemented, streamlining government and saving Florida taxpayers more than $4.2 billion.

The Modern Management and Sensible Savings report from the TaxWatch Center for Government Efficiency outlines eight recommendations.

The first is one that TaxWatch has championed for many years. This year, TaxWatch continues to urge the Legislature to appropriate funding to replace the Florida Accounting Information Resource, or FLAIR, which processes every financial transaction in the state, from the purchase of staplers at the Department of Transportation to the collection of sales tax.

FLAIR is more than 30 years old and its inefficiencies and complicated system management are costing Florida taxpayers. But, a greater concern than cost is that FLAIR may fail to process transactions in the near future. The antiquated system is likely to become overwhelmed. The failure of FLAIR would spell big trouble for Florida’s government entities, businesses and citizens who call the Sunshine State home.

Savings also abound by creating and following best practices among all state agencies. Florida’s agencies and departments collaborate to provide services, yet internally they often operate independently. In private business, different departments adhere to one set of company policies. The state level lacks a similar guide, so duplicative and inefficient policies run rampant.

TaxWatch recommends the Legislature create a statewide information technology office agency with the authority to set information technology (IT) policy, and improve the procurement process for state agencies modifications that would improve state service delivery and massively reduce their associated costs. These changes are desperately needed in Florida, as our state recently ranked last in IT management.

Just these few recommendations would save Florida millions of dollars. In a year where the Legislature is debating the cost of tax cuts, TaxWatch has already discovered how to fund them.

To learn more about the eight recommendations, visit www.FloridaTaxWatch.org/research

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