Dear Fellow Floridians:
As your Chief Financial Officer, I make it a priority to provide you with the latest information on the multitude of responsibilities our department is tasked with overseeing for Floridians. Our Dollars and Sense newsletter focuses on a different issue of relevance on a weekly basis, but this week I wanted to share with you a department-wide overview of our accomplishments.
One of my first actions as Chief Financial Officer was to increase the transparency of state government, and I am proud to say that we are having tremendous success. Since 2011, we have launched the Transparency Florida website, developed the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System (FACTS) to make state contracts available online and developed
SOLARIS (State-Owned Lands and Records Information System), an online tracking system for state-owned lands and facilities, for public viewing. These are only a few examples of our successes, but they are each very important to holding government accountable to taxpayers like you.
I am also proud of our ongoing efforts to fight fraud. We have made more than 5,000 insurance fraud arrests since January 2011, an average of 3.8 arrests per day. Nearly 2,000 of these arrests were for PIP fraud, an average of 1.5 per day. Meanwhile, we have also been successful fighting against public assistance fraud, against state contractors fraudulently billing the state and against workers’ compensation fraud, among other types.
One of the ways our department interacts most closely with consumers is through our Division of Consumer Services. Since 2011, we have advocated on behalf of 70,000 seniors,
helped return $87 million to insurance consumers and helped return nearly $800 million in unclaimed property.
Plans are already underway to build upon these successes, including furthering government transparency, increasing our efforts to prevent fraud and making the insurance industry more consumer-friendly. I hope you will read this special addition of Florida’s Bottom Line for more information on our transparent, fiscally-sound and consumer-oriented accomplishments.
Click here to read more.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
Statement by CFO Jeff Atwater Regarding the Lawsuit to Eliminate the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater recently issued the following statement on the lawsuit to eliminate the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program:
"I am outraged by the lawsuit seeking to eliminate the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTCSP). Since 2002, this program has been providing scholarships to disadvantaged, low income students whose families have longed for access to better schools. The FTCSP was expanded in 2010 and 2012 with broad bipartisan support in both chambers. For the entities filing this suit to choose to use the Courts for what they could not accomplish through the legislative process is both disheartening and disingenuous.
"Unfortunately, the investment of time and money in this action is a clear indication of exactly what the academic elites in Florida value. Instead of celebrating and building on the tremendous record of success this program has achieved for thousands of Florida’s children, the plaintiffs have turned their attention to undermining the opportunities of those children and families most in need in order to protect their professional fiefdoms. It is a sad and disturbing commentary that these organizations are much more interested in restricting options for success in order to make a purely bureaucratic point of order.
"During the 2013 – 2014 school year, nearly 60,000 students and their families were able to avail themselves of approximately $274 million in FTCSP scholarships. This is a 17 percent increase in participation over the prior year. Almost 70 percent of scholarship recipients were minorities, those most at risk from underperforming schools.
"It is as tragic as it is inexplicable that the full weight of the professional academic establishment in this state would target the most vulnerable of our children. Does the number of disadvantaged children eligible for these programs pose such a serious threat to the entrenched establishment that it is willing to refocus attention away from the pressing needs of the system they administer to quash the hopes and dreams of those with greater needs?
"The plaintiffs do not demonstrate strength by attacking the weakest among us. That is a sign of intellectual and moral bankruptcy. Floridians deserve far better."
Florida Economic Briefs
Consumer demand rises in South Florida
During the last month, South Florida reported an increase in tourism, real estate sales, and construction. For small businesses, the process of obtaining a traditional loan continues to take longer than it did before the recession. As a result, many businesses are choosing to expand by utilizing internal cash flow, nontraditional banks, and private investors.
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Orlando leads the state in population growth
From 2000 to 2012, Orlando’s city center increased by 34.2 percent, followed by Tampa with an increase of 14.5 percent. According to the Florida Retail Report, these trends indicate a growth in retail that is a product of a recovering economy and tourism sector.
Source: Orlando Sentinel
Florida's Bottom Line - Small Business
Small businesses are the backbone of Florida’s economy, which is why we are focused on
cultivating an environment where they can continue to thrive. Florida is home to
2.3 million small businesses, which constitute nearly 99 percent of our state’s
employers. These businesses are truly the heart of Florida’s economic lifeblood,
employing one-in-every three working Floridians and creating nearly two-thirds
of new private sector jobs statewide.
This edition of
Florida’s Bottom Line highlights why Florida’s small
businesses must continue to grow, prosper and remain in our state for our
economy to thrive. Inside, you will find keen insight from small business
experts as well as a wide array of helpful resources for your small business.
Read the small business edition of
Florida's Bottom Line here.