For my Tuesday column, I wrote about the underwhelming 2014 legislative session that recently concluded and an ongoing paradox: For the last 15 years, conservative Republicans have controlled every part of state politics, espousing a mantra of less government.
Yet during this period, the state budget has ballooned from $49 billion to $77 billion, a 57 percent increase that outstrips the pace of population growth (22 percent) and cumulative inflation over that span (41 percent).
Florida collects more and spends more than 15 years ago. Part of that is simply a function of rising costs, especially for health care for our aging population. But it's also a function that government -- no matter whether run by tax-and-spend liberal Democrats or read-my-lips conservative Republicans -- takes whatever money comes its way.
They might give a special-interest tax break, a sales tax holiday or an auto fee cut here and there. But you never hear them talk about cutting the sales tax rate from 6 percent to 5 percent. (Not that I think they should: I believe we need the revenue and should be spending it more wisely. I'm just pointing out the hypocrisies of Republicans, who say one thing but do another.)
In Florida, revenues are very dependent on sales tax (which fluctuates with the tourist tide) and a tax on home sales and mortgages known as documentary stamps (which fluctuates with the real estate market).
Despite bumps during the Great Recession and after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, tourism, real-estate and the overall economy have rebounded. And that's meant an overall rising tide of general revenue/tax collections for Florida -- from $19 billion in 1999 to a projected $27.3 billion in 2014.
In addition, the amount Florida collects from fees that go to state trust funds (like for auto and boat registrations) has also risen.
Add it all up, and we have more money coming in, and more money being spent.
And more money being directed to corporations through the state's embrace of privatization and outsourcing.
Next time you hear conservative Republicans in Florida talk about shrinking government and cutting taxes in Florida, remember the reality of these numbers.