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Governor Bush Comments on Economic Stimulus Package

April 30, 2002
Source: The Executive Office of the Governor

There's a reason why Senators Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, Bob Graham, Ted Kennedy and Bill Nelson all voted for the economic stimulus package signed by the President last month: it's good public policy. A key component allows businesses to speed up depreciation of equipment they buy, which will encourage investment and create jobs.

Florida must now seize the opportunity - as we have in the past - to align our own state corporate income tax with that of the federal government by recognizing the same deductions.

Of course, we must do this while ensuring that public education remains Florida's top priority. I support a $1 billion increase in total funding for public schools, the first six-percent per-student increase in over a decade. Funding is part (though not all) of our commitment to improve student achievement in Florida's public schools. This plan would guarantee a greater four-year increase in public school funding - per student, corrected for inflation, however you want to count it - than was provided in either of my predecessor's two terms.

We can make this commitment to education while still bolstering our economic health, and we must do so. It is Florida's economic vitality that generates the tax revenues that allow us to fund education in the first place. It is Florida's economic vitality that has allowed our small and large businesses to recover so quickly from the national economic slowdown and the terrorist attacks of September 11. It is Florida's economic vitality that draws business investment to our state when it could just as easily go elsewhere.

Florida could add up to 10,000 new jobs over the next five years, according to the Heritage Foundation, if we seize this opportunity to strengthen our economy. We must not let it go by.

Remember that seven months ago -- shortly after September 11 severely impacted our state economy -- a $1.6 billion revenue shortfall was predicted for the coming year. We responded by passing an economic stimulus package planned to create 30,000 more Florida jobs.

The result? You can see it on the faces of Floridians and our visitors alike - Florida is back. Hotels and attractions are filling up, and those hosting major conventions are once again choosing Florida. Today we anticipate $650 million in new revenue, in large part because of our revitalized economy. Many states that have not fostered economic development are in much worse shape.

We must not take Florida's competitive advantage for granted, however. Other states are conforming to the federal tax code. If we spurn the same incentives that other states adopt, we risk seeing future high-wage jobs go to their children rather than to ours. As important as public education is, it would be bittersweet to train our children for high-wage jobs that will only be available to them if they leave the Sunshine State.

Public education and a healthy economy go hand in hand. Any budget plan that does not prioritize both efforts does a disservice to the people of Florida.