While budget cuts around UCF may not be readily apparent to students just yet, rest assured it will get worse before it gets better for Florida’s university system and the state economy as a whole. Jobs reports released this month have confirmed fears about the floundering state of unemployment in the nation, and Florida is no exception. Florida’s unemployment rate currently stands at 8.6 percent, above the national average, and it does not show signs of improving, at least not without some substantial changes.
“Not sure if it’s that big of a surprise to see what’s happened in the labor market in June considering what transpired around us — a recovery that has lost momentum and labor market not performing the way we need it to considering how many jobs were lost and how many people are long-term unemployed,” economist Sean Snaith of UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness told The Palm Beach Post.
Unemployment, as well as the state’s budding deficit, can be attributed to many things, but tax reform and simple job creation initiatives need to be closely examined. Outdated tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of 2012 need to be revisited and revamped to suit Florida’s present economy. Sales tax essentially keeps the state afloat, yet those taxes don’t apply to Internet sales, a common purchase method in today’s society. The state is also currently losing money from gas taxes as state residents gravitate toward more fuel-efficient vehicles. Small adjustments like these that are made to fit modern lifestyles may seem superfluous to the larger issue but are ultimately catching up to the state’s resources. New methods of revenue must be introduced before the entire budget runs dry.
Unfortunately, new revenue sources have been made available and have been turned away. Gov. Rick Scott has shunned several opportunities to bring jobs to the state, such as the SunRail and more recently, the expansion of the state’s health care system in cooperation with the Affordable Care Act. Despite estimates from the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy that suggest Medicaid developments would bring 65,000 jobs to Florida, Scott calls the law a “job killer.”
Why does all of this matter? Because Florida’s public universities will experience a $300 million dollar cut from their budgets next year, while public schools throughout the state are already operating at the second lowest funding level in eight years. These tax cuts will significantly affect college students in the Sunshine State, and the tax legislation currently on the books is simply not working. State lawmakers need to advocate realistic and profitable projects in Florida to begin whittling away at what promises to be a disastrous debt if actions aren’t taken now.
Anyone interested in writing a column for the Opinions section at the Central Florida Future can contact the Opinions Editor, Kaley LaQuea, at firstname.lastname@example.org.