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Politics / Issues

Gov. Scott Dials Up Tax Cuts on Cell Phones, Cable Bills

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Gov. Rick Scott is asking lawmakers to cut taxes on cell-phone bills and cable and satellite television to meet the first half of his re-election campaign's $1 billion tax-cut pledge.

The proposal, announced Tuesday by Scott, would reduce state tax dollars by a projected $470 million. The governor's office said it would save about $43 a year for a family that spends $100 a month on cell-phone and cable services, though spending on such services varies widely by household.

“With our cell phone and TV tax cut, every Florida family is saving real money --- around $40 a year for spending as little as $100 a month between cell phone, cable and satellite bills," Scott said in a prepared statement.

Scott's proposal would reduce what are known as "communications services tax" rates, which are now 9.17 percent on nonresidential landlines, cell phone, and cable services and 13.17 percent on satellite services. The tax has generated about $1.4 billion in annual collections in recent years, according to the Florida Tax Handbook.

Scott was flanked by telecommunications executives while announcing the proposal Tuesday morning at the Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce. The proposal got quick praise from business lobbying groups.

"Governor Scott continues to prioritize fostering a business-friendly environment so that our state's businesses can continue to grow and we continue to attract new and innovative businesses to the state of Florida," Associated Industries of Florida President & Chief Executive Officer Tom Feeney said in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers, who have been noncommittal about how much of the state's surplus they will devote to Scott's priorities in the budget for the coming year, called Scott's proposal "a starting point" as they begin to review tax proposals. A final tax-cut package will be negotiated this spring as lawmakers finalize a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

"In my committee, no tax is safe," House Finance & Tax Chairman Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said. "It is the goal of the House of Representatives to find even more ways to decrease the tax burden on Florida's families."

Senate Finance and Taxation Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, has pushed similar, though somewhat smaller, measures than what Scott offered.

Hukill, who met with Scott on Monday, said she expects the communications-services tax to be a significant part of any final tax package.

"This is not something that is for a small number of people," Hukill said. "We have almost as many cell phones as we have citizens in the state of Florida."

House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, and Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said Tuesday they had not yet reviewed Scott's proposal.

Scott made cutting taxes and fees a focus of his two successful election campaigns and his first term in office. Scott and lawmakers last year made about $500 million in cuts, with much of that going to reducing vehicle-registration fees.

The Republican governor touted the fee cuts during last year's campaign and pledged to make about $1 billion in tax cuts during the next two years.

At campaign stops, Scott maintained support for a number of sales-tax shopping holidays, along with touting plans to cut the communications-services tax, eliminate a manufacturing sales tax, phase out the corporate-income tax and a sales tax on commercial leases and enact a constitutional amendment that would prevent residential property taxes from being increased when home values don't go up.