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If not USF, where should state cut to close deficit? | News

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If not USF, where should state cut to close deficit?
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TAMPA BAY, Florida - With the tide potentially turning on the fight to save USF, lawmakers are still faced with difficult decisions regarding how best to balance the 2012-2013 budget.

The state projects a possible $2 billion deficit next year and the Senate Budget Committee proposed $400 million in cuts to higher education.  The House proposed a much more modest cut, but wanted to cut more out of the state's Medicaid budget.

House Democrats say none of the cuts are necessary if state revenues are increased.  State Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, tells 10 News that closing loopholes companies are exploiting in Internet sales tax laws are hurting Florida's brick-and-mortar businesses and costing the state between $500 million and $1 billion a year in lost revenue.

"Now is the time to step back, take a breath, and ask how we got into this situation," Rouson said in a statement. "It's crucial to remember that we don't live in a vacuum of cuts. Rather, we have an available safety net of laws designed to create revenues for the entirety of our state, including the University System.  No one university need be the ultimate loser.

"The reality is we are going to have to make cuts (but) as we cut, we must use existing opportunities, such as the Internet sales tax and the remittance of the collected sales tax proceeds from online travel companies. In Florida Trend business magazine this morning, I found a growing clamor for enforcing the Internet sales tax as I have been advocating for years.

"Enforcement alone would substantially plug the gap in the state budget and eliminate all of our cuts at USF. So instead of shifting our pain to others, the Bull Nation should tell our state legislators that 'we want to collect taxes that are already on the books and support you for doing so."

The gaining momentum for closing Internet sales tax loopholes has not been met with gaining momentum for saving higher education cuts, however.  Many prominent Republican senators have suggested the savings should be passed along to Florida's businesses to create jobs, and cuts to the university system and Medicaid should be made anyway.

What do you think?  How would you close the state's budget deficit?  Medicaid cuts?  Higher education cuts? Increase revenues somehow? Take our Facebook poll and let us know what you think.  Also, leave us your comments and we'll select some to read in our newscasts.

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