TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — A proposal that would allow people to avoid sales taxes while stocking up on storm gear at the start of hurricane season continues to gain strength in the House.
The hurricane sales-tax holiday (HB 567), sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and backed by Gov. Rick Scott, received unanimous support Wednesday from the House Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee.
While a Senate version (SB 362) has stalled since getting approval from the Commerce and Tourism Committee the first week of February, Gaetz expects the hurricane sales-tax holiday proposal will eventually be included in larger economic packages that could also include tax holidays for back-to-school items and energy-efficient appliances.
“My expectation is that the governor’s recommendation to have a hurricane sales-tax holiday will be adopted by the Legislature, but the function and form may be different in both chambers,” Gaetz said after the meeting. “I think there will be a series of tax-reduction packages, and I think this will be one element.”
With lawmakers looking at a surplus of about $1.2 billion before they negotiate a budget for the next fiscal year, Scott has supported the back-to-school and hurricane sales-tax holidays. He has made a top priority of lawmakers approving $500 million in tax and fee cuts during the session.
The bulk of those cuts will come by rolling back vehicle registration fees. House Finance and Tax Chairman Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, has said he expects the rest of the cuts to come from a mix of reducing the corporate-income tax rate and approving the sales-tax holidays.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is behind the sales-tax holiday on energy-efficient appliances during the Sept. 19 weekend. The proposal would exempt the first $1,500 of Energy Star and WaterSense products that cost at least $500. Buyers would only be allowed to use the tax break on a single purchase.
The proposed hurricane sales-tax discount period, from June 1 to June 12, is three days shorter than Scott’s request.
Scott’s office has also estimated that his discount would save shoppers $20 million.
In November, state economists projected that a 12-day holiday would cut state revenue by $2.9 million, with local governments collectively seeing a $700,000 reduction in revenue.
State economists noted the lower projection is because many Floridians already have some of the items that would be free of sales taxes, such as tarpaulins selling for under $50, first-aid kits worth $30 or less, self-powered radios at $50 or less, and gas tanks at $25 or less.
Also, economists said it was difficult to make projections about the sale of batteries, as packages of AA, C-cell, D-cell, 6-volt and 9-volt batteries, each worth less than $30, would be free of the sales tax during the holiday.
Gaetz said AAA batteries are not included because they are mostly used for small electronics that may not be the primary need post-storm.
“We’re more concerned that your flashlight works than the remote control to your DVD player,” Gaetz said.
Other items that would be tax-free include self-powered light sources at $20 or less, non-electric food storage coolers at $30 or less and portable generators worth up to $750.
The House measure has one more stop, the Appropriations Committee, before reaching the House floor.
“The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.”