Since it began in 1790, generations of Americans have participated in the United States Census process. While most know that the decennial Census is the basis for apportioning representation in Congress and state legislatures, few people realize that it also determines how much of the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual federal program funding goes to each state.
This funding is not a handout – it is part of the approximately $200 billion in taxes that Floridians send to Washington, D.C. every year. And it is vital that our political leaders position Florida to ensure that we get our fair share.
There are more than 100 programs that distribute approximately $700 billion to the state over the next 10 years using data from the 2020 Census. These programs touch all facets of everyday life, including: education, health, transportation, water and waste infrastructure, assistance to low income, elderly and disabled persons, affordable housing, economic development, job training, the arts, and the environment. When Florida does not get back its fair share of these tax dollars, our money goes to subsidize these programs in other states.
That is exactly what has been happening in Florida for many, many years. Florida TaxWatch has produced several reports going back many years showing that Florida receives far less than its fair share of federal money relative to other states, consistently ranking near the bottom in terms of per capita grants and grants as a percentage of federal taxes paid. The latest Florida TaxWatch grant report shows that in FY 2015, Florida received less grants per capita than every other state in the nation. If Florida received the national average in per capita federal grants, our state would get $14.6 billion more of our tax money back.
Over the next nine months, city and county governments across Florida have the opportunity to participate in the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program, where local governments can review and update the U.S. Census Bureau’s address lists before the population count begins in 2019. This process is vital ensuring an accurate count both for the local community and the entire state.
However, in 2010 more than 50 percent of Florida cities and 15 percent of counties did not participate in LUCA. Some local government leaders have cited a lack of federal funding while others have indicated they would opt to use previous address lists in order to meet LUCA obligations. In either case, the cost of nonparticipation is potentially billions of dollars over the next decade if the population is under-counted, which it almost certainly will be.
Meanwhile, other states are in motion making sure their federal funding is protected by improving their census accuracy through the LUCA program. Florida must use LUCA to ensure the census counts all Floridians; if not, even more of our federal tax dollars will go to subsidize federal programs in other states.
This piece comes from Robert Weissert and Kurt Wenner from Florida TaxWatch and Nick Intintolo of the South Lake Group.