Senate Tax Cut Plan Still ‘Fluid’
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A Senate committee on Wednesday added two more tax cuts — a back-to-school sales-tax holiday and a dip in the tax on cable and phone services — to an already-approved vehicle registration fee rollback in an effort to reach Gov. Rick Scott’s benchmark.
The Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously backed the three-day, back-to-school sales tax-free period (SB 792) as well as a measure to scale back the communications services tax (SB 266), both part of committee Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, tax cut package.
But Hukill’s plan doesn’t run completely parallel to what the House has crafted to reach the $500 million in election-year cuts that Scott has requested. And her proposal doesn’t completely match Scott’s recommendations, either. The governor wants a hurricane season sales-tax free holiday period and a $100 million reduction in the state’s commercial-lease tax.
Because of the differences, Hukill said she won’t halt other tax cut proposals from going forward in the Senate in anticipation of fiscal horse-trading with the House.
“Things change, it’s a fluid process,” Hukill said.
The House has “their priorities, we have our priorities, and sometimes we come together,” she said. “But what the Senate has been very clear of is they want to do a broad-based return of money to the consumers.”
Other tax reduction proposals before lawmakers include a reduction in the tax businesses pay for electricity and a three-day, energy-efficient appliance tax holiday (SB 1076) — both put forward by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — as well as Scott’s recommendation to increase the corporate income tax exemption from $50,000 to $75,000.
House Finance and Tax Chairman Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, has said that, apart from the vehicle registration fee reduction, he expects the rest of the House’s cuts to come from a mix of a corporate income tax reduction and the sales tax holidays.
The Senate approved the vehicle registration fee rollback (SB 156) on Tuesday and the House could make a final vote on the proposal (HB 7123) on Thursday. The reduction would potentially save Floridians between $20 and $25 per vehicle registration starting Sept. 1.
The reduction, which Scott is expected to sign, would save motorists about $309 million during the upcoming 2014-15 budget year, with the savings growing to $395 million the next year.
The communications services cuts approved on Wednesday are projected to save consumers $80.2 million.
Under the other Senate proposal adopted Wednesday, shoppers are expected to save $39 million on the three-day, back-to-school tax holiday, proposed for Aug. 1-3. Sales taxes would not be collected on purchases of clothing that cost $75 or less, school supplies that cost $15 or less and personal computers and related accessories for non-commercial use that costs $750 or less. The Senate plan adopted Wednesday is seven days shorter than the House companion which mirrors Scott’s request.
Both the communications services and back-to-school sales tax measures must go before the Appropriations Committee before reaching the Senate floor.
“I think that Sen. Hukill was accurate in saying it’s early in the process to figure out what is going to be in our full tax relief package,” said Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, the sponsor of Putnam’s energy bill and the author of the back-to-school tax holiday.
This report is by Jim Turner with The News Service of Florida.