Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will use speech to stress tax cuts

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Associated Press,Taxes,Florida,Budgets and Deficits,Rick Scott

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Rick Scott will kick off the 2014 legislative session by asking legislators to approve his tax cut package and by asking to keep tuition rates low.

Scott's State of the State speech Tuesday will be one of the highlights of the opening day of the 60-day session.

While the first day is usually a lot of ceremony, the Florida Senate plans to pass bills intended to crack down on sex offenders. The main goal of the proposed laws will be to strengthen the Jimmy Ryce Act, which allows for the civil commitment of sexual predators once they finish their prison terms.

Florida lawmakers are expected to cover everything from guns to gambling this year.

But many contentious issues may get pushed off another year to avoid controversies that could harm Scott's bid for re-election. Scott, who had never run for office before 2010, is seeking a second term but he has been battling consistently low poll numbers.

Scott will use his speech to press for more than $500 million in tax and fee cuts he's seeking this year. The Republican governor wants to roll back auto registration fees that were increased back in 2009 when Democratic challenger Charlie Crist. He is also seeking a break in taxes charged on commercial rents and he wants to expand the state's existing back-to-school sales tax holiday.

"As I tell the hard-working people of Florida as I travel our state: We want you to keep more of the money you earn. Because it's your money," reads one except of his speech.

The governor also wants to keep college tuition rates flat again this year. Scott vetoed a proposed tuition hike in 2013 and his office tried unsuccessfully to get universities to ignore a provision in state law that requires tuition to go up by the rate of inflation.

Scott in his speech will ask legislators to repeal laws that allow universities to raise tuition above rates set by legislators. Legislative leaders have said they are willing to roll back the rate from the current 15 percent to 6 percent.

Scott will say that "undoing" the tuition laws is "another way we can keep higher education affordable and accessible."

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