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Florida is facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit – the difference between what the state collects in taxes and the money needed to pay for key services like education, law enforcement and health care. The Bob Graham Center for Public Service is asking you to fix it. The Sunshine State’s constitution requires a balanced budget. Using the interactive pie chart below you’re going to help close the gap in the state’s $70 billion budget.
This isn’t going to be easy. Just like the newly elected governor and state lawmakers, you must make some tough choices – whether to raise taxes, or cut vital services – in rough economic times. You only have a few areas in which you can make your cuts. These cuts must come in the $24 billion General Revenue Budget. Currently, education makes up roughly 50% of the general revenue budget. Health and social services makes up another 27%, and prison, courts and law enforcement comprise 14%. The $46-billion Trust Funds – made up of gas taxes, lottery proceeds, and federal stimulus and Medicaid funds – are “non-discretionary.” These funds cannot be cut under law.
Revenues are down because a stagnant economy and declining home prices means there’s less to collect in taxes. But the cost of high-priority needs like paying teachers, prison guards and state troopers; paving roads, running health clinics and helping the poor with food stamps and other public assistance isn’t falling. Raise taxes and you might be accused of thwarting an economic recovery. Cut services like education or crime fighting and it could be said that you are hurting the next generation of Floridians. When you’ve found the right mix to fill out the pie chart, you're finished. Then share your plans with us online.