As its president, Dominic Calabro, puts it, Florida Tax Watch has been the watchdog for the state’s taxpayers for the last 40 years. A lot has happened in that time, including the transformation of Florida into one of the most important states in the union.
That’s why, says Dominic, it’s more important than ever for public officials to be held accountable… to have an organization watching them closely to make sure they’re good stewards of public money – while not playing partisan politics.
We talk about how Tax Watch has helped save billions and how that will impact Florida’s future for its government, businesses, and everyday citizens. We also dig in to…
The ways they take legislators to the task – and recognize exemplary government employees
How they’re spurring positive change in schools
The most important issues they’re involved in today – and what’s on their radar
Why they’re encouraging Everglades restoration
Mentioned in this episode:
John Curry: Hey folks, this is John Curry. Welcome to another episode of John Curry's Secure Retirement podcast. Today I'm sitting across the table from my friend Dominic Calabro. Dominic, welcome.
Dominic Calabro: Thank you, John.
John Curry: Dominic is President of the Florida Tax Watch. And we're going to have some conversation today about what Tax Watch does, Dominic's role, and what he sees as the future issues facing the state of Florida as well as current. So first of all, Dominic welcome. And tell us a little bit about Tax Watch.
Florida Tax Watch: Who Are They?
Dominic Calabro: John, Florida Tax Watch is the eyes and ears of the taxpayers of Florida for 40 years now. It's celebrating his 40th anniversary at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, December 2, 3rd, and 4th. It was founded in 1979 by a group of prestigious influential businesses, civic leaders, notably the CEO of Winn Dixie, Jay E Davis, the founder of Winn Dixie, also the founder of tax was also George Jenkins, the founder of Publix and founder of tax watch. Yeah, the Mark Hollis, who was very active senior officer later became vice-chairman of Publix supermarkets. Since then, we've had Barney Barnett as a chairman of tax watch. But we had Phil Lewis, who was a Democrat, conserved Democrat, Ken Plant, a moderate Republican, both very well respected leaders, and a Florida Legislature.
Back in the late 70s, there was a concerted effort to look at the state of Florida, we're really we're beginning to grow, we just came out of a great serious recession of 1973 74. But there was Florida time of growing up from being like an adolescent, becoming like a full time. Since that time, we're now the third largest state in the nation. And a big reason why we are because of the turn of the previous century, late 1800s 1900s, Florida was one of the poorest smallest and least important states in the union. And it became over the period of 80 to less than 100 years, one of the most important megatrends states in the nation, the third largest, fourth fastest growing state in the nation.
And people wanted to make sure that there would be an organization that would look out for all the taxpayers, to know when it's time makes sense to raise taxes. And if you do, how do you do so in the with the least harm to the economy and do the most good for the people Florida. They want a group that was nonpartisan, they wanted to make sure Tax Watch would look out for all the taxpayers, not just the poor, that's wealthy but everybody, they sure that we help raise all ties. So over those years, tax Watch has really been a bird dog, a guide dog, especially a watchdog, it has not been a lap dog under Democratic or Republican governors, legislatures, it's served the public by finding ways... discovering to be more effective, more efficient. It's offered specific ways to save 10s of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, billions of dollars, enough to say, between $2,000 for each Florida family.
John: Let me ask a question, Dominic. People who listen to this. If they're asking themselves, why should I care about tax watch? What would your answer be to that?
Dominic: Well, because you can't have the you can't have a good state and local government if you don't have someone not only watching over but being a good steward watching over to make sure that powers held accountable that our city officials or county officials, school board members, the Florida Legislature, Governor cabinet, not only made accountable but offered ideas to help them deliver more value to serve the people Florida better To tell the truth, when sometimes the truth hurts to make sure that we're looking out for all the taxpayers and their long term interests. Like for one thing tax, which has been studying the issue of public pensions for a long time, and identified ways that we can make reforms and we did so in a bipartisan manner.
We had two big governmental candidates in 2010. Alex Sake was running for governor. She was a CFO at the time. She ran against, of course, Rick Scott who did win, but upon even after the race was over in December 2010, there was a joint press conference where they both groups held the tax watch report of major cost savings, including a massive piece of pension reform legislation that came about it caused the employees... Florida is the only state at the time that did not require it's employees to contribute anything to their retirement.
They said either go to a defined contribution plan, which we did not or have a defined benefit plan but how the employees contribute. We recommended 5% the state settled on three, the state was sued. Tax Watch came in and an amicus brief before the Florida Supreme Court and helped win a very, very narrow case by bringing over one of the more progressive justices to side 4-3 in favour of that pension reform that saved nearly $2 billion a year for all the taxpayers. Okay. It also over 30 years as well over $60 to $80 billion dollars... One would call that a good day's work.
Some of the big tax things that Tax Watch has done is we once handled tangibles tax. It's a tax on stocks, bonds and things of that nature. Tax Watch worked initially with Governor Lawton Chiles but then really ramped it up with Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida Legislature to phase the tangibles tax, tax on money, and on seniors tax phase it out without harming the core functions of government, we helped generate billions of dollars of tax reductions, while not hurting core functions in education, healthcare, environmental protection.
So you don't think of Tax Watch as something out there for the students and academic achievement But Tax Watch actually helps improve the performance of our schools by making sure we highlight those things that work best in schools tax, which is a whole programs reward, to recognize and promote great principal leadership, particularly to family schools. So you can't have a school perform well if principles are not top-notch. The only reason why many great teachers stay in schools is that, okay...
John: The principal is the chief executive officer of their orders,
Dominic: You're absolutely right, John.
Retirement and Education in Florida-- How Tax Watch Helps
John: Let me pause you for a second here. You got a lot of passion about this. So let's back up, let's slow you down. So the defined benefit pension plan 1975, it became non-contributory in the state of Florida. So all these years, as you know, have hundreds of clients who are FRS members, my grandfather and my father both retired from the state. Thankfully, they had pension plans, because when my grandfather died, unfortunately, he made a bad choice, his pension died with him, my grandmother had no money other than Social Security. My dad saw that mistake. So he said "I'm not doing that" and he took what was called option three, got the income for life for 22 years. And he died, and my mother lived four more years, and she died earlier this year. So those pension plans are very, very near and dear to my family, and also grew up in the side of my family, but, and to also to other people in the Florida Retirement System. I want to make something clear because I've heard people say Tax Watch was against having defined benefit pension plans. That was not the issue at all. It was, "Hey, we need to have some contribution being made by the employees to make this thing sustainable." Yes, because if they had not done that there was already an issue because of the investment world of what happened and the great recession in 2008. And if you talk with people like Ash Williams, who heads up the Board of Administration will tell you, "hey, look, because of the investment world changed. It was difficult there to make sure that the pension plan was solid." And that's an issue all across the country. Not just in state plans, but corporate plans. So I want to make that clear that the organization of Tax Watch was not against defined benefit pension plans. It was just making work for the benefit of all taxpayers. So I think that's a key point.
Dominic: Yeah, it really is John, I think what Tax Watch is also looking to do is to make sure we're looking for all the people and make sure it's fair, sustainable. But also reasonable and competitive. So there, there's still more work to be done.
John: Talk about some of the issues that you at tax watch are following up. Before you do that talk a little bit about what happens inside the doors of tax watch. You and I have been friends for a long time. So I have some idea of the inner workings but talk about what happens with the research. Just kind of break it down as far as the division of labor within Florida tax watch, because pretty fascinating.
Dominic: Yeah, what we do is it’s kind of like the sum of the staff of the governor's office where the House and Senate Appropriations and finance tax committees. We have a very proficient staff that our budget analysts, economists, but they're great writers. And what we do is we look at big issues and challenges that are facing the people Florida, say how can we tackle them, look at them differently, and solve a problem ways that sustainable and effective and create long term value for the people?
John: So would you say that's somewhat of a think tank approach?
Dominic: Yeah, we're very much both a think tank, a combined Think Tank, but also watchdog. And that's an unusual combination. It's harder to do that. It's easier to be like gotcha, watchdog after the fact, it's harder to be watchdog and kind of looking forward to things. We've been able to balance those two things out. So over the years, we've helped to reform like the pension system, change our tax system to make it more modern, less offensive, less onerous. We're looking now to really use some transformational changes in our schools, particularly with the tax watch principal Leadership Program, we're not only finding three elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools, where the principles are absolutely transforming those schools they were either they were should have been F's or D schools and they're making no Bs. C+'s B's, and better. The costs are also a poor school. So we're Title One, a disproportional title one free reduced lunches are served, where English is spoken a second language with more challenges, often crime near those neighbourhoods, if you can do it there YK to do it everywhere. So we find those principles. We give them cash rewards. We give also to those nine schools, a prepaid scholarship to make sure that it's a gift that keeps on giving. We're finding out that these principles are not only transformative, but they share certain characteristics, John, and yet they're helping to both retain the best teachers and inspire greatness out of good teachers. And we think that this program and this activity are going to be was critical to ensure that Florida remains competitive, it's not just a matter, partly money is a key issue. No question. It is an issue. But money alone is not gonna solve it. And we know that leadership requires vision, character, discipline, resources, and accountability. The principles, Tax Watch's principal leader's program brings all of those things together in a transformative way and changes those kids lives in the lives of the community. So we want to see more of that occur. We're also looking at how can we take a lot of the money that's spent outside the classroom overhead. We need these support functions, transportation, food, service, janitorial, custodial, all the administrative expenses, but we probably have too much of that. And we want to take some of those expenses that are spent outside the classroom, reduce them, take those savings and put it into the classroom.
John: So how do you measure that? How do you determine what is too much over here and then put into the classroom talk about that from it?
Dominic: It's just a basic accounting, account codes and so forth. But the way to do it is really in our eyes by using competitive systems by looking at, okay, how can you, maybe a lot of these commercial activities are not really inspiring a kid to learn, does nothing wrong, it's something very important about transporting a kid safely to and from school. Yes, there is very, very important. But a lot of people can do that. Not a lot of people can inspire a child to read, inspire a child who didn't get that at home, but inspire him or her to really love learning the building blocks of learning. So really taking those resources that have spent outside the classroom making sure they're done fairly safely properly. But finding competitive systems, much of those activities can be outsourced without sending them to overseas, they have to be done inside but done in a more competitive framework, the savings than going back into the classroom,
John: Why does Florida Tax Watch care about that? Let's expand on that. So why should you as organization care about it? And why should the people listen to this sho say "I don't have kids in school? Why should I care?"
Dominic: Because really, the youth and well-educated children, communities are the future of our state. They're the future for job creation, their future for preservation of our constitutional democratic republic, we can't have informed citizens unless they're informed themselves... they are absolutely our future, but also our present. So having kids that can perform well, we want to make sure they stay in Florida, we have systems of doing that. So saving that money saves taxpayers improve students academic achievement, and it helps families and communities. So it's a win-win-win. That's what Tax Watch seeks to do on every issue it encompasses. It just takes a stronger harder lifting than others. We don't, it's like the BASF commercial, we don't make the boat motors, we just make them better.
John: That's right. Well, I was sure just last week, for some friends about thoughts on the education system. I see that when you're in school, if you and I compare notes, and J is sitting here with us, and the 3 of us sitting here in the classroom, and we share ideas, that's called cheating. So we're expected to work hard, get A's get 100 on the test ourselves. But the very minute you get into the corporate world to get on the job. Now, collaboration is critical. But most people don't have to do it, because our education system teaches you to be a rugged individual versus a team player. So I'm of the opinion now what you should do is a school system is to break the class up into five or six children per group. And they work together, they can compare notes and take the test together. And then whichever five or six has the best scores, they as a group score.
Dominic: It's funny you say that it's just because actually there was a program called Project Child. And it really had to do with instruction, but also computers in the classroom. And so it was a way of actually taking sometimes third, fourth and fifth-grade classes together. So you had the same teacher for three years, they, the teacher got to know how Johnny and Susie learned, it could help touch them and inspire, tap into how they learn and also than how they would collaborate with other students to help teach each other. And we did that. And they were able to get better results with even larger classrooms. Now, let's say we had the class size of them and take hold that Project Child couldn't really work in the same rubric. And he could see the benefit of it.
John: This goes back a long time ago. But when I was in fifth and sixth grade, I had the same teacher both years. And it was very fascinating because you're correct. The teacher got to know how you think about how you work. And it was much better a little town called Glendale over in Northwest Florida. It was interesting. Alright, so education is one what other issues Are you guys focused on?
Dominic: Tax Watch has done so much to get state started on criminal juvenile justice reform. It's really one of the areas that seem to have some bipartisan support, say, "Well, why is that important?" Well, what's really important about is we were starting to build so many jails. So a little over 10 years ago, Tax Watch knows that during the Great Recession, the governor at that time, Charlie Chris was going to take $325 million to build three new prisons. And he's going to take that cast to fulfil the budget deficit and then bonded, that turned $25 million would have turned into over a billion dollars with interest stories on them because of the bonding. So we said, you know, stop that. We found that they were going to cost 100 million dollars apiece to build, we're looking at 19 more.
John: Alright time out. When you say stop that. So walk us through a little bit about when you see something as, not Dominic Calabro but as Tax Watch, the board says this is an issue we have a problem with, walk us through how you go about making an impact with the political leaders.
Dominic: Well, what we do is we conduct and publish research, we make sure it's thoughtful, as accurate. It's fair. But most importantly, we want to make sure it's impactful. So we often share to make sure it's accurate. But beyond that, and we go public with it. And we put pressure on people who share with interested parties that want to see it changed. We don't lobby, but other people do. We give it to news organizations that put pressure in different capacities. We share with House and Senate leaders, House and Senate staff members, the executive branch, their staff and the like.
So we say hey, we can do better. And we show specifically where and how through accurate, insightful, thoughtful facts and figures that are impactful in people's lives. So the recommendations we had, we were looking at building 22 prisons. Okay, so we really stopped and put a put a moratorium on that will pop to say to do that would cost $2.2 billion in cash bond and get just to cash I just had to upgrade them is 40 million a year. So 22 times it's $840 million annual operating expense. That's money that now is not going to go there.
But we'll go into early learning, healthcare education or generativity. So, tax which had to lead the state and smart justice in this criminal juvenile justice area. The next area will be looking at his continued Tax Watch in 2017 helped prompted support the senate president on the beginning of the restoration of the Everglades. So why is that important to people, you choke off the Everglades, we don't filter that water properly, you're going to starve southeast as well, Southwest Florida has too much water intrusion, saltwater intrusion that's going to ultimately starve the whole community and the whole the can't have a good economy if you have a good ecology. So we now... this governor, Governor DeSantis is a very strong proponent and will continue to work with the Everglades Foundation and others to make sure that the Everglades is actually restored in more cost-effective, thoughtful way for the preservation of generations.
John: Here's a question for you. You can't do everything. So walk us through how the board makes the determination. So what issues to take on versus say, that's nice. Somebody should do that. But we're going to pass on that one.
Dominic: Great question. So in my capacity as President/CEO, I'm also the chief staff executive. It's in our bylaws is one of the most unique independent bylaws in the country of a particular state of Florida. The CEO is responsible for formulating the finding of facts, conclusions, recommendations, not the Board of Trustees or the board of directors or the executive committee. Okay, the executive committee authorizes.
So how do they do that? Well, we look at an issue we check, is this important? Okay. Has this been independently pursued in the past? Do we have the resources or the talent to make a difference? And by what reasonable means? And do we have the capacity to see it through? When we check all those things up? We help, the executive committee helps us prioritize and authorize the conduct of it. When they do. They let the chips fall where they may. There are four things... three, four things a Tax Watch says no one else us in the country, not just in the State of Florida. It's independent research. We have the annual turkey watch report. Okay. That's a report that holds accountable for the legislature see that they spend the money the way they say it's going to be spent in a fair, equitable fashion.
John: That's always fun to see that, by the way.
Productivity Awards & 40th Anniversary
Dominic: Well, you know what, I'll tell you why we're the only one in the country that does that. It is impactful, Democratic and Republican governors alike, including Governor DeSantis has helped veto over $4 billion worth of tax watch tag, a budget item that did not go through the process... the vetting process that they wanted. So that's important. Now also one of the... sometimes we have our own board members and officers have their projects on there, what organization would put your sitting chairman's project on that list? You would for it's accepted in this past year. And our chairman was awful. I mean, he didn't like it. But he understood, he respected the integrity, he respects the thought was the reason why that particular $10 million projects was on there was that technically, it was going to take money out of the transportation trust fund.
But I have nothing but ultimate respect for our chairman who said, "You know what, they're right." Now, I'll still fight for the project course, you know, and that's fair to and that's appropriate. But so that's number one. Number two, we have what used to be the Davis Productivity Awards, and Prudential now, it's called a Tax Watch Productivity Awards, that going to be issued September 11 at FSU, from 5 to 8:30. That's a program that recognizes, that rewards and replicates tremendous excellence by our state employees and workgroups. John, that's just exactly what you're talking about. We not only find individuals doing a great job. They're saving taxpayers millions of dollars, but also working collaboration in innovative ways, adding more value than what they're expected and paid to do.
John: What you're doing is awesome. I've had the pleasure folks over the years of being a sponsor of that. And as amazing the work that you see there, that's good work.
Dominic: That's the second the other. The third thing is really this puts awards... which we took those productivity rewards program, and then shaped it towards principal leaders. The beauty that we have with Florida system that really Governor Jeb Bush really helped Craig with continue to expand on it was the accountability with some of the best data collection of schools, you know, ranking the schools and the teachers and the principles in them of any state and nation. So, so since we're data rich, we use that data to conduct the tax watch prism Leadership Awards Program that recognizes the great leaders. Now, we're also not just helping to recognize them. We're using it to give scholarships to the kids at school prepaid scholarships to one student issues nine schools each year, that would not otherwise go to school. Thirdly, we're able to take the principal Leadership Awards Program and have them teach the faculty and students that are concerned with Broward college and then hopefully take it around other colleges and possibly universities. Then the fourth part of that would be to ultimately help advise the military do the state board of education on what works, what doesn't. They are the successful CEOs in the class on the job and the class and the class activity. So use them to advise the State Board of Education and the Florida Legislature about the policy practice that really, really work. Last but not least, each year, tax watch comes up with ways to save a tremendous amount of money. So both former the current chief financial officer Jimmy Petronut, and former CFO Jeff Atwater talked to the Bonnie Houses and this is actually on the record. They both said that they've talked to Standard Ports Fiction and Movies in one of the questions why is it Florida such a good state financially?
And since there are three reasons one is our state constitution has really strict on spending, not spending money we do not have okay to we've got a lot of statutory laws. But third, each of them said this, I'm not making this up, they have it on tape. Recorded, not on tape just shows how old I am. On recorded, but the head of this group in Florida called Tax Watch, Florida Tax Watch not only gives us the recommendation to save tax dollars, not just cut, cut, but do things better, smarter, more effectively, and more impactfully. But the exit comes back and hold us accountable. And they recognize us and we get plaudits for doing it. And we get, you know, scuffles for not following it. And that helps us perform even better than we have in the past. So it allows Florida tax which makes sure that we never sit on our laurels attacks watch. But more importantly, our state local communities will never let them sit on their laurels. There are always more challenges to meet, and improvements to make and tax, which is there to make sure that the challenges today tomorrow and that effectively, efficiently and responsibly.
John: You're a nonpartisan organization, so it doesn't matter: Democrat or Republican. But from the standpoint of pressure, do you ever get filter getting pressure from either political party or our leaders?
Dominic: I mean, yes, I know. I know, the years that you've had battles with people's years, sure it goes, I've witnessed some of them. But walk me through that from the standpoint of political issues, you ever feel like you're getting pushed on and trying to fix what you were pulled and pulled in, like anybody else, anyone that's got influence, you're going to try to pull you and tug you or push you or whatever, to have you, you know, get behind that portion. And that's understandable. It's human nature, we, we always look for proper, not improper influence. So if some whole thing is if you got a good idea, or you've got facts and figures that we don't have that are important, we're all ears and will include it. What if not, they'll go look, the chips fall where they may. And we have a 40-year history of doing that, with rare rare exception, no one bats 1000. But our numbers are pretty darn high. That doesn't mean we always succeed. But one thing that's never up for grabs, is our integrity, like to budget turkey issue or anything else. That is paramount. And it's important with every organization, john, but it's critically important, because tech flush its legitimacy is the authenticity of power, making sure power is is is properly applied for the benefit of all the citizens, and all the taxpayers and all of our visitors. So Tax Watch has helped, like in this whole Visit Florida area, it's helped make sure we get more money tourism, we get our level of tours, we conclude by making sure we did research, it was well-grounded, informative, and helpful legislature appropriate money to get us from 85 million towards close 220 plus million tourists here that have added 10s of billions of dollars to our gross domestic product and improve the economy it actually reduces the tax burden on residents because our visitors help pay for the it.
John: Well, if we didn't have that we would definitely have a state income tax was a comparable of it.
Dominic: Yes, we would. Yeah, absolutely. Tax Watch points that out. So we're looking we're not ideological, we are principled. So the principles, what can we do to add value to long term for the citizens based on the sound guiding principles of our founders of our nation, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, but also on the evidence, the evidence at hand if there's good evidence behind it, and sound principles of human behavior, Tax Watch is going to support it and see it through.
John: Very good, very good, but we won't get just a little bit of time left. So let's talk a little bit about the upcoming. You don't call them Davis Productivity Awards... you call them Tax Watch Productivity Awards, talk just a little bit more about that, where the different meetings going to be this year, and when, and then I will end up talking about your big event in December. So if anybody would like to join that they can attend that they can. But let's start with the productivity awards. Tell us more about that.
Dominic: This, this is our 30th anniversary, it's a great time for the productivity awards. Well, it's also the 40th anniversary of Florida Tax Watch. For the 30th anniversary of the now-named Tax Watch Productivity Awards, it's presented by Kira Solutions. We have other major sponsors, we will be giving cash rewards vary from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars to a deserving stake of employees in working it's throughout, say government. The awards will be presented in Tallahassee at The Kickoff on September 11. We have a governor and cabinet resolution and recognize them. We had the cabinet member Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Petronus is also he is also being recognized for their unfailing, tremendous efforts during Hurricane Michael to help bring people in their property back to some restoration of civility and, and a healthy, safe return. That will be September 11 at Florida State University. And that'll be from five to 8:30. I'd say call Tax Watch at 850-222-5052 for information about attending that event. The other one we have will be the 40th anniversary and December 2, 3 and 4, honouring Tax Watch's founders, its trustees, board members and it's unfailing supporters for four decades. So we hope that we're going to position ourselves for the next 40. So Florida's growing up a lot and Florida Tax Watch, as you heard from the chief financial officers of Florida, Tax Watch has had an important part.
John: So if you stay in this role, another 40 years that make you over 100 wouldn't it?r
Dominic: No, that's not going to happen for a lot of reasons, you know, it's a... no, I've been very, very blessed. This is this actually is going on my 40th-anniversary tax watch as well as store in 1880. And just very, very blessed start as a research analyst, then executive director and president CEO. Most importantly, we have a very dedicated professional staff. They are really nonpartisan, in fact, I want to probably the very few that I know if any organization where in our personnel manual, we are prohibited from making political contributions of any sort. We cannot support candidates in any public manner. We want people to vote, of course, but they cannot run for office, cannot serve in you know public office, because we really want to make sure that the whole brand is truly nonpartisan.
John: So if I were an employee of Florida Tax Watch, I cannot make a political contribution.
Dominic: Correct. You agreed to that as part of the agreement terms and conditions.
John: I did not realize it.
Dominic: Yeah. Well, we've we've always had informally, but maybe five, six years ago, we actually would check with legal counsel, because of our unique role. And our unique brand, it's part of the brand.
John: So I think that makes total sense. I know I'm limited about what I can do because of being an into the financial world, financial regulators and put a cap on what you can and cannot do. And I did not realize that that was the case there. I like that. So that definitely makes sure that you practice what you preach doesn't it?
Dominic: You know, it's one thing to say that you're non-partisan, and obviously, legally, the organization cannot by federal law, make contributions to political candidates. But very frequently, you'll have the senior officers of, of these nonprofits you know, pick one side or the other, right, or sometimes even certain political office, we cannot we do not it's just a self imposed discipline to ensure our independence and our integrity and our and the character of our integrity. So I don't know of any organization and even academia that puts that kind of high level of integrity.
John: But it should be if you're calling yourself somewhat Florida Tax Watch. If you're calling yourself what was this now, let me get it right... guide dog, bird dog, watchdog, but not a lap dog. Yeah, you sure as hell better have some high principals. So he did. Otherwise, you're going to not last for 40 years. All right, anything else you want to say in closing my friend?
Dominic: You know, John, I've been very, very blessed to serve in this role. To try to be a very good leader, a good steward. Part of it is the the the humility to know that no matter how good we do and how hard we work, there's still so much more out there. And I've been very blessed to meet professionals and become friends with professionals like yourself and others, that I would never have had the opportunity to have I not been blessed with the opportunity to lead Florida Tax Watch. I've met some of the best not just political leaders, some of the best civic leaders, professional men and women who really care deeply about making their communities as well as the state of Florida the best it can be. And Tax Watch is just an important instrument of our experiment in a constitutional democratic republic, we just do that with an as little small part of the world called Florida, and even each of its major communities.
We're now looking at the 2020 census. And part of that we have a whole program that's designed to make Florida count. Every city, every major city, every major community, county by county, city by city, we realize that if we do not make every Florida every person count 20 years ago, we undercounted conservatively by 200,100 people, the equivalent of a 10 years of loss of $3 billion of federal grants and aid. That's probably even the loss of possibly one congressional seat we add whoever the overage on one part and the underage on the other. If we were replicate that today, that could be 300,000 to 350,000 people larger than the size of Orlando, that would cost us at least one congressional seat, and probably $8 billion, we want to make sure make Florida count.
We're working with the leaders, the City Mayors, and City Council's the county commissions and leaders of the counties and the local communities. So that neighborhood by neighborhood, people who they are familiar with, we want to count everybody, the homeless of the disaffected everybody, because that's what the law requires. And we don't want to count anymore, no county less. The impact of that will face Florida, communities, cities, counties and the state for at least the next 10 years. And even forget count every single person, because Florida is the third fat third largest state and the fourth fastest growing, we're adding 360,000 new people year, within three years alone, we're going to have over a million people in Florida from other states that are still getting the money from the States, because they're using the 2022 Central census, when it's 23, or 2025 will have you know, one to 2 million more people here not get the money. So it's really important. Who thinks like that? Florida Tax Watch.
John: I want to add another question to the thing here because what you just hit is something else from the standpoint of the growth of Florida. Some people move here from other states, and they say, hey, I've got mine now, don't anybody else come in, just lock the gates. But you just threw out a number 360,000 people a year coming here. That's 30,000 people month. So how does Tax Watch look at the growth of Florida and how do we sustain growth and also do it in a way that doesn't bankrupt us? Let's talk about that for a minute.
Dominic: There are several things to do. First, what we would Florida does is continue to keep a good fiscal policy, keep our taxes low competitive, but also make sure we spend monies, preserving those things that are most important that make Florida special.
Our rivers, our lakes, that some Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades, but all of the history of our major lake, make sure that the water clean, make sure that we are preparing for as rising sea levels occur, that we do something to prevent the erosion of our critical coastline, to make sure that we have good transportation systems, we invest in the infrastructure. That's why having the leaders come to speak at any lead will be very important. So I think the most important thing is that we have to be looking at ahead, not just behind what we've done. Because of Florida, as great as it is, and we have great things to build upon. We're only good as our weakest link. And we're only good as our continued commitment. So I say education is critically important. Kindergarten to 12th grade early learning is critical to start that, but it's also important throughout our colleges and universities to need to kind of support as well as accountability but financial support to make sure we not only educate people but also make sure they come back and stay here and contribute to the economy.
John: Right. Dominic Calabro with Florida Tax Watch. Thank you for your time, my friend.
Dominic: Thank you, my friend.
John: We will do this again. The next time we do it. I want to get into some more specifics about what are some of the issues that you're focused on currently in the future. I think we just barely scratched the surface in this 40 minutes today. So, folks, I hope you've enjoyed this and Dominic if somebody wants to know more about Florida Tax Watch, tell them who to call and where to get the website.
Dominic: Website is www.Floridataxwatch.org. Phone numbers 850-222-5052.
John: Thank you for your time today.
Dominic: Thank you.
2019-86927 Exp 9/30/2021