FL House Panel Shows Off $300M Tax Cut Plan

Mar 31, 2017
Originally published on March 30, 2017 3:43 pm

The House is proposing nearly $300 million in tax cuts.  The ways and means committee unveiled their ideas this week.

Rep. Jim Boyd chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, and this week the Bradenton Republican hosted a workshop explaining the House’s tax cut proposals.

“So I don’t know if many of you ever watch Oprah,” Boyd says, “I don’t often because I’m usually not home.  But as she would say, take a quick look under your chairs because in this tax package there’s going to be something for everybody.”

All told the House plan cuts taxes by almost $300 million in the coming year—or about $50 million less than Governor Rick Scott’s proposal.  But even if he and the House disagree on figures they do agree on the biggest target for reductions.  Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) explains the tax plan reduces the tax on commercial leases.

“The proposal before you today will reduce the business rent tax from 6 percent to 4.5 percent for two years,” Raschein explains, “with a permanent reduction from 6 percent to 5.5 percent beginning in 2020.”

That portion of the House plan alone amounts to more than $450 million over the next two years.  Scott would make the one and a half percent reduction permanent.  The Senate wants to make a similar cut, but smaller—and they’re paying for it by removing a long-standing tax credit for the insurance industry. 

Also, the House is offering a raft of sales tax holidays—back-to-school, hurricane preparedness, text books and Veterans Day.  Here’s Rep. Mel Ponder (R-Destin).

“Just for one day a year on Veterans Day for articles of clothing and footwear—with a few exceptions—of $60 or less, it’s just a sales tax holiday for veterans. The fiscal is about $1.4 million.”

And the Republican-led committee took pains to include Democrats in the proposals.  Sales tax exemptions for diapers and feminine hygiene products started out as Democratic bills, and Boyd rolled them into the broader package. 

Minority Leader Janet Cruz explains low income Floridians who can’t buy in bulk pay as much as double for diapers.

“They typically live in areas that are food deserts and are devoid of chain stores and they simply pay almost twice as much for diapers,” Cruz says.  “The Senate version of this bill says that the savings to families is almost $52 million.”

The move is reminiscent of House leadership’s strategy in passing measures killing business recruiter Enterprise Florida and scaling back the state tourism agency Visit Florida.  House Speaker Richard Corcoran made a personal pitch to get Democratic buy-in, and he was able to cobble together a veto-proof majority.  The positions House leaders have staked out on business incentives, property taxes and borrowing that put them at odds with the Senate, the Governor or both.  But in a prepared statement touting the House tax plan, Speaker Richard Corcoran reiterated those positions. 

House and Senate subcommittees have published their spending their proposals, which means budget negotiations could be right around the corner.

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