The two men who want to be the next governor of Florida have very different ideas on how the citizens of the state should be taxed.
Florida Daily asked both of the major candidates about their plans for the Sunshine State.
Former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., the Republican candidate, told Florida Daily there is a clear delineation between what Florida has been, and what Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate, wants the state to be.
“To me, Florida being a low tax state, that is central to our DNA,” DeSantis said. “We need to solidify that as much as possible.”
Since DeSantis believes being a low tax state is central to Florida, he says his tax philosophy is similar.
“We want a tax system that is designed obviously to raise the requisite revenue but to do so in a way that is the least economically damaging,” DeSantis said. “If there are things that we can do to make Florida an even better place for investment, then obviously we are going to look at that.”
DeSantis’ tax plan does not seem to include many new tax breaks. When asked about new tax breaks at a campaign stop by Florida Daily, DeSantis singled out only one.
“We are the only state in the country that taxes business rent. So the question is, is that helping us grow to the maximum capacity, and I think that impedes growth when you have these counter-productive taxes,” he said.
Where the gubernatorial candidates differ the most is on corporate taxes. Gillum has made no secret about his desire to raise those taxes. It has been a central campaign theme for Gillum and used against him by the DeSantis campaign.
Gillum’s plan is to raise the current corporate tax level from 5.5 percent to 7.75 percent. The Democrat points to the tax cuts passed under President Donald Trump last year, painting them as a giveaway to the largest corporations which he does not believe will lead to more money being pumped back into Florida’s economy.
“Our richest corporations will still pay billions less in taxes next year. We just ask that less than a fifth of that money go to work for Florida families,” Gillum said.
If the Gillum plan were enacted, the campaign estimates it would raise around $1 billion in new revenue. The Democratic nominee is pledging to give almost all of that money to Florida schools with $400 million going to teacher salaries, which Gillum says are too low. He wants to eventually start Florida teachers at $50,000 a year.
“We now rank 47th in America in average instructional staff salary. Next year we may fall to 50th — dead last in America,” Gillum said.
Another $250 million would be pumped into early education while school construction and vocational training would claim $100 million apiece.
This is not the only tax that Gillum wants to pass. The Democratic nominee wants to create an entire new industry in Florida by legalizing recreational marijuana and levying a tax on its use and profits. He points to Colorado as a success story and says Florida is in a unique position to do much better because the Sunshine State doesn’t border states which have legalized recreational use.
“If we scale up Colorado’s model to the Sunshine State, the potential new revenue is extraordinary. We live in a state of more than 20 million people, and there are no other states near us that have legalized recreational marijuana. We could raise anywhere from $900 million to $1 billion in new annual revenue — and that doesn’t include new economic activity from people no longer incarcerated for simple possession crimes, or low-level marijuana offenses,” Gillum said.
DeSantis believes Gillum’s plans are dangerous to Florida.
“I believe you want to be as competitive as possible,” DeSantis said. “So having a lower business tax gives you competitive advantage over other states and allows you to recruit more investment into Florida. He thinks jacking it up and being more like California is the right way to go.”
Gillum has praised California’s tax system in the past but implementing it in Florida would be extremely difficult. If elected, Gillum will likely have to rely on a Republican Legislature if he wants to enact any of his program.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.