Florida’s Taxing Scenarios

Florida, as we well know, is faced with the inconvenient truth of a $1.1 billion budget shortfall and a tax system that hasn’t fundamentally changed since LeRoy Collins was governor. Ripples from the property-tax shell game have already been felt at the local level. Tampa, for example, has announced $20 million in fiscal cuts.

It’s a scenario rife with uncertainty, as well as opportunity for Charlie Crist, the Not Jeb! governor who’s much more pragmatic than ideological.

Already he has given every indication of expediting a (federal government-pressured) agreement with the Seminole Tribe about casino gambling on tribal lands. This, of course, is no panacea, and the downsides are well documented.

But if you’re talking about balancing a budget by cutting projects, programs and personnel – and there are alternatives shy of a state income tax to help do just that – then gambling perforce is in the mix. In fact, look for a (gambling) “voluntary tax” rationale to be spun like it’s never been spun before.

However, what also should be on the table – along with blackjack, craps and roulette – are sales taxes on services and a revisitation of a host of sales-tax exemptions. It’s never a good time to propose such, especially the former — ask former Gov. Bob Martinez — but these are atypical times calling for atypical, sometimes unpopular, solutions.

It’s also a propitious time for an “open minded,” “innovative” – and, yes, gutsy — governor.

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