TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/ NSF) —  Florida Governor Rick Scott is trying to make a sales tax cut to manufacturing machinery permanent and has added it to his re-election platform.

It’s  part of Scott’s latest campaign lap across Florida, in what has been dubbed his “Jobs for the Next Generation” tour.

Removing the tax from certain machinery was one of Scott’s two priorities in the 2013 legislative session, promoted as part of his effort to cajole companies to move to Florida and to help those already here add workers.

“It really lifts all the red tape,” said Nancy Stephens, lobbyist for the Manufacturers Association of Florida. “In a small-business state, where red tape is something that is very difficult for small businesses to deal with, I think this is going to allow small businesses to jump in and make those purchases without having to jump through a lot of hoops.”

Scott last year requested a permanent tax cut for the machinery. Instead he had to wait until the final week of the legislative session before getting lawmakers to include a three-year temporary cut as part of a larger economic-incentives package.

“Gov. Scott has always favored a permanent elimination of the sales tax on manufacturing equipment,” said campaign spokesman Greg Blair. “Florida is one of only a handful of states that assesses this tax, and it’s important to level the playing field as we compete to create jobs here at home.”

Before the temporary cut went into place this past April, businesses could still qualify for an exemption from the tax but they had to prove that they would increase their “productive output” by 5 percent after buying the equipment.

The required output mark had been 10 percent, but was lowered by the Legislature in 2012, also at the urging of Scott.

The temporary exemption was projected to save manufacturers about $140 million a year when signed into law last year. Scott’s campaign expects the savings would continue at that projected amount when the sales tax is eliminated.

The permanent abolition of the tax is being rolled out with proposals to add $30 million for workforce training in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, to offer paid summer residencies at private-sector companies for STEM teachers and to clear regulatory barriers for emerging industries.

Included within a “policy book,” the campaign pointed to a 2012 law (HB 1207) that allows for the testing and operations of “self-driving” vehicles in Florida as an example of removing barriers for new business ideas.

Scott previously announced plans to push for additional funding for the state’s seaports, expanding programs that help parents pay for educational services for disabled children, and additional support for foster care and early learning programs, if he gets elected to a second term.

The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.


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