Tax Analysts Blog

How Much Did Jeb Bush Cut Taxes In Florida?

Posted on Apr 6, 2015

During his first State of the State address in 1999, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush got a standing ovation when he announced his plan to cut Florida taxes by over $1 billion. “It’s not our money,” he told the Republican-controlled Legislature, “it’s the people’s.” Seven years later, his message remained the same. In his 2006 State of the State address, he proposed cutting taxes by $1.5 billion.

Now, as an all-but-officially-announced candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination —- the odds-on favorite, according to bookmakers in Ireland —- Bush frequently cites his record as a tax cutter in Florida. The website of his “Right to Rise” political action committee claims that taxes were cut in Florida by nearly $20 billion during his tenure as governor.

Building on official revenue estimates published by the Florida Legislature, I have done my own estimate of the total changes in revenue resulting from legislation enacted during Bush’s two terms as governor. My figure is $13 billion. It is the sum of annual estimates shown in the first chart below. My estimate — following the method used by the Florida Legislature -- includes nontax revenue increases such as new lottery and slot machine revenue, and it does not include automatic cuts in Florida estate taxes brought about by changes in federal legislation in 2003. These factors probably explain most of the difference between my estimate and the Bush website’s estimate.

Certainly $20 billion (or even $13 billion) is a lot of cash, and the Bush campaign will continue citing it. But it is fair to ask whether, over a period of seven years in a state that had a population of approximately 19 million, those are really large tax cuts. Look for Bush’s opponents to present his tax cuts in a form something like that shown in the second chart (below). Based on the same method that allowed me to arrive at the $13 billion figure, I estimate that the Bush tax cuts resulted in the Florida government collecting about $140 less ($6,250 minus $6,111) from the average citizen than it otherwise would have in 2006.

We are in the age of bumper-sticker, sound-bite politics. Supporters will say Bush cut taxes by $20 billion. Opponents will say he cut taxes by $140. Both figures are grounded in fact, but they create very different impressions. This is a good example of how the presentation of facts can be massaged to serve a political agenda. (For more on this point, see Darren Huff's classic How to Lie With Statistics.)

So was Jeb Bush a pedal-to-the-metal tax slasher in Florida? Or did he just tinker around the edges to make headlines? You can decide for yourself.

Read Comments (5)

bubba shawnApr 6, 2015


Jeb Bush is no liar. Jeb being the Republican front runner will earn puntins,
like yourself, to put forth disputed facts just like your article.

Who says that you are more correct than Florida's bean counters?

The present White House occupant has been in way over his head since January
2009. He has been trying to raise taxes upon everybody in every Budget he had
submitted to Congress.

david brunoriApr 6, 2015

Bubba, I can assure you that Dr. Sullivan does not have an agenda when it comes
to discussing Florida tax policy. In fact, he is using the Florida bean
counters numbers. I like the fact Bush cut taxes, particularly the inventory
tax. I think Marty is simply saying that one's view of the size of those tax
cuts will depend on how you are looking at the numbers. That seems fair.

edmund dantesApr 7, 2015

the per-taxpayer annual and the ten-year total are two ways of saying roughly
the same thing. the more important point is, during that period were other
governors also cutting taxes, or were they boosting them sharply (as we did in
CT)? how did florida rank in per-taxpayer burden (we're number one in CT)?
did florida's ranking on this metric go up or down during his tenure? did the
tax cuts spur above-average economic growth? was that growth even more
valuable than relatively small per-taxpayer tax relief?

perhaps too subtle for the average voter.

Citizens for ClarityAug 21, 2015

This information is accurate, I have verified. One should know that many
politicians are no more than used car salespeople.

Jane B.Dec 20, 2015

THere was no income tax in Florida. I lived there then. The only tax that I can
recall was the income tax for the super wealthy. All sorts of fees went up
which cost ordinary folks like me but no tax cuts. .

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