News from Tallahassee for 4/24/14

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Amazon.com to collect Florida sales tax starting May 1 posted on 4/17/14

by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE — Internet giant Amazon.com will start to collect sales taxes on purchases made by Floridians starting May 1.

Amazon's entry into the state's brick-and-mortar retail landscape could mean about $80 million a year in sales taxes, according to a business group.

"Amazon will be required to collect sales tax in Florida beginning on May 1," Ty Rogers, a spokesman for the Seattle-based retailer, wrote in an email Wednesday.

The move wasn't unexpected as the company is building a pair of massive fulfillment centers in Polk and Hillsborough counties along Interstate 4.

John Fleming, a spokesman for the Florida Retail Federation, said the announcement is probably a sign that Amazon will soon trigger a collection requirement by starting to hire for the year-end holidays, which for retailers begins in September. "They're going to have to have employees ready by then," Fleming said.

The Amazon announcement won't end the drive by some groups to eliminate an exemption that has allowed out-of-state online retailers including Amazon, eBay and Overstock to avoid collecting the taxes.

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Lawmakers stick with school tax holiday; other breaks in danger posted on 4/15/14

by News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Floridians should expect the return of the popular “back-to-school” sales-tax holiday this August.

But state funding for Daytona International Speedway and a temporary tax break on gym memberships could be casualties when the House and Senate meet next week on their opposing packages to complete Gov. Rick Scott’s election-year tax cuts.

House budget leaders have expressed surprise that the raceway funding was included last week in the tax-cut package. But senators, advancing a number of proposals to help the ongoing speedway improvements, consider the issue an economic development driver.

Overall, the two chambers have taken different approaches to filling in the remaining $100 million in tax breaks to accompany a $400 million a year repeal of a 2009 rate hike on motor vehicle registration fees. Scott has already signed the registration fee reduction (SB 156) into law.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said Friday the two chambers will “find a middle ground.” But when asked about the Senate’s inclusion of money for the speedway, Weatherford, who has been averse to government funding of stadiums, said “that would probably be one that we probably would not be supportive of. But it’s early.”

The House wants a wide array of tax breaks, from sales-tax holidays on back-to-school items, energy-saving appliances, hurricane supplies and gym memberships, along with the elimination of the sales-taxes on the purchase of child car seats and bicycle helmets for kids, a temporary lifting of sales taxes on the purchase of cement mixers, a loan program for television production in the state, and a lessening of the sales taxes businesses pay for electricity.

The Senate has countered with a package that keeps the back-to-school holiday while reducing a tax on cable and phone services, lessening an insurance tax paid by bail bond services, and directing sales tax dollars to assist the $400 million ongoing “Daytona Rising” improvements at the raceway.

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Senate plan offers cut in taxes on cable, phone service posted on 4/11/14

by michael van sickler | Times/Herald Tallahassee News Bureau

As lawmakers haggle over the budget in the final stretch of the session, they’ll be deciding whether cell phones deserve a tax break or TV producers, gym memberships and low income neighborhoods do.

With about $500 million to offer in tax and fee breaks in next year's $75 billion budget, the House and Senate have already agreed on a major chunk: reducing about $395 million in vehicle registration fees.

Gov. Rick Scott has already signed that into law.

What about the rest?

Both chambers have pretty much already agreed on a tax holiday on Aug. 1-3 for “back-to-school” sales. It includes no sales tax on clothing less than $100, school supplies that are more than $15 but less than $100, and the first $750 spent on personal computer equipment, which is estimated to cost the state $32.3 million; June 1-12 “hurricane preparedness” holiday for supplies like fuel tanks, flash lights, first aid kits and reusable ice, which would cost the state $3 million.

Both chambers are taking next week off, so that will give them about two weeks to hash out the remaining differences.

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Senate adds sweetener to stadium bill for Orlando, Miami, Daytona projects posted on 4/11/14

by Aaron Deslatte | Orlando Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE -- A proposal to give tax subsidies annually to more professional sports stadiums got sweeter for Central Florida Thursday, as lawmakers added language allowing projects already underway to get ahead of the line for tax dollars.

Both the House and Senate are nearing floor votes on plans to require stadium tax-subsidies to go through a new competition process for $13 million in annual sales tax rebates in which the Department of Economic Opportunity reviews and ranks them based on their economic impact.

But the Senate Appropriations Committee amended its stadium bill (SB 1216) Thursday to allow projects started after July 1 to compete for $6 million in annual incentives and not have to return to the full Legislature next year for approval.

That helps Florida's professional soccer fans kick-start financing for new stadiums in Orlando and Miami, as well as potentially steering money to the Daytona International Speedway expansion underway.

That potential time-savings is critical for Orlando’s $85 million Major League Soccer stadium and the $400 million Daytona Rising development.

Miami Dade College president decries opposition to sales-tax bill posted on 4/9/14

by MICHAEL VASQUEZ AND KATHLEEN MCGRORY | Miami Herald

Branding them “bullies” and “ideologues,” Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón blasted a handful of powerful local lawmakers on Tuesday, charging that they are sabotaging his school’s best hope for a desperately needed infusion of money.

Padrón’s unusually blunt remarks, made to the Miami Herald editorial board, came as a bill circulates in Tallahassee that would allow a Miami-Dade voter referendum on a proposed half-penny sales tax to benefit MDC. The college projects the five-year-long hike, if approved by voters, would raise about $1 billion.

This same half-penny bill has been proposed three times before, with anti-tax lawmakers repeatedly refusing to allow the question to go on the ballot. Past polling suggests the measure has a strong chance of passing, should it ever reach county voters.

This year, Padrón said it is a group of conservative Miami-Dade House Republicans who are trying to kill the measure — going beyond simply voting against it to organize broader opposition, a campaign he said had “crossed the line.”

“They want to show their force,” Padrón said. “It’s who has more power, and who can show more power.”

Padrón identified the measure’s four key foes as state Reps. Jose Oliva, Carlos Trujillo, Michael Bileca and Frank Artiles.

Two of the lawmakers reached on Tuesday, Oliva and Trujillo, quickly fired back, calling Padrón’s attack uninformed and unfair.

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