News from Tallahassee for 4/26/15

Gardiner tells Gov. Scott his tax cuts are 'on the shelf' in Senate posted on 4/16/15

by Steve Bousquet | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, had a phone conversation with Gov. Rick Scott Wednesday about the session's budget stalemate.

"They had a cordial conversation," said Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, who was listening in Gardiner's office. "The president indicated that we're anxious to get a budget and we'd like to do it on time, and we're anxious to get a budget that responds to the (health care) issues -- and we've got the tax cuts on the shelf. We're also supportive of the education funding that the governor wants to do. But before we decide how to do it, we've got to get this big elephant tamed. There's a $2 billion elephant in the room."

Florida House passes nearly $700 million tax cut package posted on 4/10/15

by GARY FINEOUT | AP

TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Taxes on everything from cellphones to college textbooks and gun club memberships would either be cut or eliminated under a nearly $700 million package of tax breaks overwhelmingly approved by the Florida House on Thursday.

The legislation including the roughly two-dozen tax breaks heads next to the Florida Senate, which so far has been reluctant to endorse any tax cuts amid an ongoing standoff over the budget. The two chambers are roughly $4 billion apart due to a divide over health care and whether the state should accept federal aid to help provide health coverage to 800,000 Floridians.

But Republicans in the House contended that despite the budget stalemate the tax cuts will help Florida's economy.

“One of the best ways to have a vibrant economy is to put money right back in the pockets of taxpayers,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach and one of the main architects of the tax cut package.

The tax breaks tucked into the House bill range from familiar ones such as a three-day back to school sales tax holiday to specific ones such as sparing school booster groups from paying taxes for concessions.

The biggest part of the $690 million package is a reduction in the taxes now charged on cellphones and cable television. The proposed cut would save the average Floridian about $40 a year.

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Gov. Scott’s bid to cut corporate income tax stalls posted on 4/6/15

by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post

FL Gov Rick ScottTALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s perennial pitch for another cut in the state’s corporate income tax is drawing a familiar response from Florida lawmakers this spring:

No.

This spring, even with a $1 billion budget surplus, Scott’s latest proposal appears threatened – leaving the second-term governor still in pursuit of what is evolving into his political white whale.

“We are confident the Legislature will ultimately support major tax cuts this session,” said John Tupps, a Scott spokesman.

As a first-time candidate in 2010, Scott vowed to erase the 5.5 percent tax on corporations over seven years. And each spring since taking office the Republican governor has pleaded with lawmakers to cut the levy.

But only twice, in 2011 and 2012, has the Republican-controlled Legislature gone along with him.

So far this session, the business-tax cut hasn’t gained much traction.

It’s been ignored by the House and, while after clearing a couple of Senate committees, now appears stalled.

Scott wants to increase an existing $50,000 exemption on the corporate income tax to $75,000, exempting 2,189 businesses which would save $18.4 million annually.

This is the third straight year Scott has sought the $75,000 exemption, with the idea failing each of the past two sessions. Scott has vowed to wipe out the tax by 2018, although that is looking increasingly less likely.

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House keeps guns, ammo in sales tax holiday posted on 4/1/15

by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE — Guns and ammunition remain in a proposed Independence Day sales-tax holiday on hunting gear that is part of a wide-ranging tax cut package that advanced today in the House.

In supporting the $690 million tax-cut package (PCB FTC 15-05), the House Finance & Tax Committee rejected efforts by Democrats to remove firearms and ammo from a proposed one-day sales tax holiday for July 4. Also, it rejected a separate amendment to remove a tax exemption on admissions and membership fees for gun clubs.

The tax package, which is expected to next go to the House Appropriations Committee, awaits a Senate counter offer.

“I think we’ve got a great broad-based tax package that’s going to help millions of Floridians, all 20 million of them,” said House Finance & Tax Chairman Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.

Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, sought to remove firearms and ammo from the Independence Day tax holiday. He said the proposal sends mixed messages, as law enforcement will be telling people at the same time not to fire guns into the air.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that it really is a bad policy when we have law enforcement expending resources to address a public safety issue and in our tax code he have the exact opposite incentive and we’re encouraging people to purchase ammunition for the holiday,” Rodriguez said.

But Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, said the proposal could help increase tourism by promoting hunting and fishing in the state.

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Florida House Rolls Out Hefty Package of Tax Cuts posted on 3/25/15

by GARY FINEOUT | AP

FL House ChamberTALLAHASSEE | With a budget stalemate still possible, the Republican-controlled Florida House on Tuesday rolled out a hefty package of tax cuts and tax breaks that it wants to push through during this year's session.

House leaders are pitching nearly $700 million in tax cuts, including a substantial cut in the taxes charged on cellphones and cable television, a three-day back to school sales tax holiday, and exempting college textbooks from sales taxes.

"We want to send that money back to the kitchen tables all across this great state, because the decisions made at the kitchen table about how to spend money are always better than the decisions made by politicians far away," said Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and main sponsor of the tax package.

The House package includes more than a dozen tax breaks, ranging from sparing school booster groups from paying taxes for concessions to creating a sales tax holiday for small businesses in late November. It also includes tax breaks being sought by some of the state's business interest groups, including a slight reduction in the tax now charged on commercial leases.

The biggest part of the $690 million package is a reduction in the taxes now charged on cellphones and cable television. The proposed cut would save the average Floridian about $40 a year and would divert nearly $500 million out of the state's main budget account.

A cut in the tax known officially as the "communication services tax" is one of this year's top priorities for Gov. Rick Scott.

» Read more

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