Governor’s budget supports affordable housing, more economic development
With a budget surplus of approximately $420 million – the first surplus in four years – Gov. Rick Scott yesterday unveiled a state budget plan that brought cheers from housing advocates, business groups and environmentalists.
The $74.2 billion budget, called Florida Families First, includes $50 million in funding for various affordable housing program supported by Florida Realtors.
“The increasing strength of Florida’s housing market continues to help the state’s economy rebuild,” says 2013 Florida Realtors President Dean Asher, broker-owner with Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando. “The housing recovery is putting people back to work in much-needed jobs, stimulating local spending and revitalizing communities. For Gov. Scott to advocate setting aside $50 million to support crucial housing programs is a significant step, and one that Realtors across Florida fully support.”
Sales of existing single-family homes in Florida rose 15.6 percent in December 2012 compared to a year ago, and Realtors report a shortage of inventory in many markets, according to Florida Realtors’ latest housing data.
In announcing his budget recommendations, the governor noted that 200,000 private sector jobs were created since he took office in 2011, and that statewide unemployment dropped from 11.1 percent to 8 percent.
“The nation is taking notice of our economic turnaround,” the governor says. “The nation’s top CEOs now rank Florida as the second best state in the nation for business. We have a $24 billion trade surplus, no personal income tax, are on our way to eliminating the business tax, and our weather and beaches attract 90 million tourists a year.
“Our economy is on track,” Scott continued. “We’re now in a position to strategically invest in statewide priorities.”
Real estate-related items in the governor’s budget recommendations
• $50 million for the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund to provide down payment assistance and build or rehab housing for very low- to moderate-income families. The Sadowski Trust Funds are supported entirely by a portion of documentary stamp taxes. In addition to low-income families, teachers, firefighters and senior citizens may also access these funds to help purchase or rehab a home. In the next fiscal year, doc stamp taxes will generate $193.8 million for the fund. Since 2002, the Florida Legislature has swept all the monies generated by doc stamp taxes into general revenue.
• $19.7 million to increase the corporate income tax exemption from $50,000 to $75,000. This increase will benefit 2,000 small business owners. To provide this exemption, the Governor proposes cutting costs in state government.
• $117 million to support economic development partnerships with business and tourism groups such as Enterprise Florida, VISIT Florida and Space Florida.
• $30 million in Small Community Development Grants to improve housing for low- and moderate- income persons, thereby creating jobs that don’t currently exist.
• $18 million in Weatherization Grants to help low-income families reduce their energy bills and make homes more energy efficient.
• $60 million for Everglades restoration. In reestablishing the natural water flow to this 2.4 million-acre marsh, the governor’s staff says the funding will create a reliable water supply for millions of Floridians and provide flood control to South Florida.
• $25 million in financial assistance to local and state governments and special taxing authorities for various beach restoration projects for the state’s 220 miles of coastline.
• $75 million for the Florida Forever land-buying program. To pay for Florida Forever purchases, the first in several years, Scott has proposed earmarking $50 million from state land sales, which typically revert to the general revenue fund.
Remember that the governor’s recommendations are just that – suggestions to the Florida Legislature on how and where to allocate funds. The Legislature, which convenes March 5 for a 60-day session, will determine the state budget.
© 2013 Florida Realtors
Jones and Co Realty