According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an under-count of an estimated 1.3 million residents in the 2010 decennial census cost Florida state and local governments up to $14.6 billion in “returned tax money” over the last decade.
Yet, Florida is one of about a dozen states without a public-private complete count committee, a legislative census commission or an executive-level census office to coordinate with local governments with the April 1 census date less than five months away.
Unlike California, which has spent nearly $200 million preparing for the 2020 census – New York City $40 million, Illinois $29 million – Florida did not allocate any money for the census in its fiscal 2020 budget, which went into effect on July 1.
Pre-filed companion Senate-House bills seeking to form a state 2020 complete count committee await first committee hearings as the 60-day legislative session’s Jan. 14 commencement draws closer.
Neither request any money, but when lawmakers approved a statewide complete count committee in 1990, it had a $200,000 budget. The 2000 census panel had a $1.5 million budget and lawmakers earmarked $2.1 million for the 2010 committee.
Even if adopted quickly, the earliest the bill could be passed and signed would be in early February, less than two months before Census Day on April 1.
Senate Bill 614, pre-filed by Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, has been referred to the Senate Transportation, Tourism & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee, and the Ethics & Elections and Appropriations committees.
Rep. Anika Omphroy, D-Sunrise, pre-filed the House companion bill. House Bill 475 has been referred to the House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management and Transportation & Tourism Appropriations subcommittees and the State Affairs Committee.
Both bills call for the appointment within 15 days of the bill’s adoption of 24 members to a state complete count committee to be coordinated through the Florida State Department and work with complete count committees. There were at least 104 local complete count committees registered with the state in June.
Among committee members would be the Secretary of State, Senate President, House Speaker, Senate and House minority leaders and representatives from the Florida League of Cities, Florida League of Mayors, Florida Association of Counties, Florida Association of District School Superintendents and Leadership Florida.
Powell filed the same bill for the 2019 session but it failed to get a committee hearing because, he said, Republican legislative leaders think the U.S. Census is a federal responsibility that state taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize.
At a June bill signing in Sarasota, DeSantis confirmed that view about the census when he told the Tampa Bay Times, “The federal government does that. We don’t have a role in it.”
But it’s shortsighted not to invest in the census, claims Florida TaxWatch (FTW), a nonpartisan Tallahassee-based taxpayer advocate that is joining with the state’s business community to spearhead efforts in driving participation up in next year’s census.
The 2020 Census-based distribution formulas will allocate more than $700 billion annually in federal funding through 2030 beginning next year, FTW notes in a recent study.
“If Florida is under-represented by the count, it could cost the state millions, or even billions, of dollars,” FTW states. “Florida’s state and local officials need to immediately start ensuring the accuracy of the count by participating in existing intergovernmental processes to verify addresses and residences.”
An estimated 200,670-person undercount in the 2000 Census cost the state more than $225 million annually, or more than $2.5 billion over the decade, according to Pricewaterhousecooper.com
That undercount ballooned into an estimated 1.3 million residents in the 2010 census, costing Florida state and local governments up to $14.6 billion in “returned tax money”
Earlier this year, FTW produced a report that found “Florida receives less grants per capita than every other state in the nation,” which it and the US Census Bureau attributed, in part, to a significant undercount in the 2010 census.
“It would be hard to argue that Florida’s share” of “returned tax money” is “anywhere close to equitable” to the amount the state sends to the federal government, FTW noted, adding “if Florida received the national average in per capita federal grants, the state would get $14.6 billion more of its tax money back.”
With little interest in boosting the census outcome in the Legislature and time running out before it begins, business and local governments are going to have to spearhead the count.
“As Florida prepares to welcome more than three million new residents over the next 10 years, there has never been a more important time to ensure every single Floridian is accounted for so we get our full and fair share of federal resources,” FTW President/CEO Dominic Calabro said.