Gov. Rick Scott unveiled another election-year tax cut proposal Tuesday — a $104 million reduction in the sales tax on rent paid by businesses.
Scott, who promised a $500 million overall reduction in fees and taxes in next year’s state budget, has surpassed that level. So far, Scott has floated five different potential cuts that add up to about $618 million in savings, according to the governor’s math.
The growing level of givebacks may earn Scott political points. But it may also draw resistance in the Legislature, where some lawmakers appear underwhelmed with his new proposal for school spending and others want to boost state budget reserves.
Scott’s proposals are only a recommendation to the Legislature, which writes the state’s annual budget.
Scott used a visit to an Ace Hardware Store in Orlando to promote the break on business rentals, a day before he plans to roll out his full budget recommendation to the Legislature for the 2014-‘15 year.
Scott would reduce the 6 percent state sales tax on commercial leases by one-half of a percentage point. While the proposal is likely Scott’s final tax-cut pitch, the governor heard the request from many business leaders as early as last fall when he embarked on a four-day listening tour.
Scott opened his tour in September in West Palm Beach, where Palm Beach County Business Development Board President Kelly Smallridge brought up the tax.
“Whenever we’re courting a company to come to the state of Florida and Palm Beach County, they’re taking a look at these real estate taxes on leases and we’re one of the only states that has a tax on commercial leases,” Smallridge said at the time.
The state’s real estate industry has been pushing Scott for the cut.
“Gov. Scott’s proposed reduction in this tax will help economic development councils and industry groups attract new businesses to their region,” said Sherri Meadows, Florida Realtors’ president. “It will also begin to eliminate the unfair double taxation that occurs when tenants are forced to pay sales tax on property taxes collected as part of their lease.”
Scott’s biggest fee rollback proposed so far would eliminate $401 million in motorist hikes approved in 2009 when his predecessor, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, was in office. Crist, now a Democrat, is Scott’s leading rival in this fall’s governor’s race.
Scott, though, also has recommended a $33 million cut in the state’s corporate filing fees; a 15-day sales-tax holiday on hurricane supplies, expected to save Floridians $20 million; and a 10-day back-to-school sales-tax holiday valued at $60 million.
Scott’s election-year largesse is helped by a budget surplus expected to top $1.1 billion.
But the $542 million increase he recommended Monday for public schools is about half what he recommended last year. Democrats already have clamored for more money for schools and could be joined by ruling Republicans in the Legislature eager to make a statement before heading out to campaign.
Similarly, Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has been restrained in his praise of Scott’s tax-cutting, urging that lawmakers also increase budget reserves by $500 million.