Car registration fees were cut and college tuition hikes were blocked in Florida in 2014. But the budget fight Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, seemed most proud of winning was putting $3.1 billion back into the state’s reserve fund.
A member of the Senate appropriations committee, Bradley talked about where money was distributed this legislative session, during the Northeast Florida Builders Association’s Clay Council breakfast.
“Everyone says, ‘You’ve got more money now, things must be easier’,” Bradley said. “It’s actually easier when you don’t have money because the answer to everybody is, ‘No.’ When it’s hard is when you’ve got some money and everybody wants some.”
The rollback on car tag fees was an important victory, Bradley said, because it showed if the state raised money during tight times, it would give the money back when it was no longer needed.
Also, holding the line against tuition hikes was important at a time when consumers have found higher education less affordable, with rising tuition costs outpacing inflation.
A less publicized accomplishment — putting $3.1 billion into reserves — is a budget victory Bradley acknowledged doesn’t sound too sexy.
But he recalled what happened during the recession to states that had no reserves, like Illinois, which increased income taxes 67 percent, and Rhode Island, which laid off teachers and public safety workers.
“I think it was very prudent,” Bradley said of Florida’s setting the money aside. “It’s not going to pay off this year, but we are making decisions that will affect our kids and grandkids.”
Bradley also spoke about issues close to the hearts of builders:
• Affordable housing: The state has turned a corner on affordable housing programs. As the economy turns around, the state is not raiding the Sadowski Trust Fund and is putting money into programs like the State Housing Initiatives Partnership.
• Impact fees: State action eliminating the fees is unlikely. These are charged when property is developed to fund infrastructure, like schools and roads. It’ll be left up to local governments.
• Legislation limiting septic tanks near protected freshwater springs: The issue will come back and it’s going to get wings, he said. “I get a little nervous when I hear about the things they’re talking about. … But some of the springs, I’ve been there. I represent Alachua County and remember what it used to look like 20 years ago. And, I see what it looks like now. It’s not the same place.”