Florida House committee eyes menu of potential tax cuts


A further reduction in a business-lease taxes, lifting sales taxes on diapers and aircraft and holding sales-tax “holidays” were among proposals that a key House committee heard Monday as lawmakers start to put together a tax-cut package for the coming year.

The measures presented to the House Ways & Means Committee had already been submitted as individual bills and, if all were approved, would well exceed the $180 million in tax and fee cuts requested by Gov. Rick Scott.

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Ways & Means Chairman Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, was quick to say not all of the proposals would advance. He also said other measures —- such as Scott’s proposal to decrease fees on motorists —- may not need much vetting.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” Renner said about Scott’s request to reduce driver’s license fees. “It has a fiscal (impact).”

By dropping renewal fees for regular driver’s licenses from $48 to $20 and the cost of first-time licenses from $48 to $27, the governor’s office estimates motorists would save $91 million during the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Renner added he’s not been given a tax-cut target by House Speaker Richard Corcoran or started talks with his Senate counterpart Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican who is chairwoman of Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee.

“We’ll certainly try to work with the governor on some of his ideas, and those include a back-to-school tax holiday, includes a disaster-preparedness tax holiday, which we discussed today,” Renner said.

In addition to proposing lower motorist fees, Scott has also proposed a 10-day back-to-school sales tax “holiday” on clothes and school supplies and three week-long disaster preparedness tax “holidays” in May, June and July.

Scott’s proposed tax and fee cuts are the smallest package he has proposed as governor. The state was expected to have a modest budget surplus during the upcoming fiscal year, but costs related to Hurricane Irma have made the budget even tighter.

Under the package released by Scott, the proposed sales tax “holidays” would account for $88 million of the tax savings.

The Ways & Means Committee heard another proposed (HB 519) sales tax “holiday” on Monday. That proposal would allow small businesses to avoid collecting sales taxes on items costing up to $1,000 on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The small-business holiday would counter the big-box store dominated “Black Friday” shopping that traditionally marks the start of the year-end shopping season.

The committee on Monday also heard a couple of measures to lower a tax on commercial leases that has been a target for elimination by lawmakers and business groups for years.

One proposal (HB 939) would further lower the business rent tax, which went from 6 percent to 5.8 percent as part of a tax package last year.

Under a proposal by Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, the rate would drop to 5 percent, which could save $218 million for businesses.

“Of course, I would love to eliminate it, but this would be more amenable to the budget because we do have a budget deficit,” Toledo said.

Last year’s cut to the lease tax was projected as providing annual savings of $61 million. It was part of a $180 million tax-cut package advanced by lawmakers. Scott did not include reducing the lease tax in his proposed package for the upcoming year.

Meanwhile, Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, wants the House committee to consider a separate measure (HB 409) that would phase out the rent tax over the next decade.

Under a proposal (HB 6045) before the committee by Rep. Mike Miller, R-Winter Park, aircraft sales and leases would be exempt from sales taxes. Miller said the proposal would help protect the aircraft industry in Florida.

“I’m not necessarily looking for the high-end user,” Miller said. “I’m fighting for the men or women who are actually working behind the scenes to keep it operable and keep it safe.”

Rep. Mike Grant, R-Port Charlotte, said the state is losing jobs as aircraft built in Florida are moved to other states to be sold.

The committee also looked at proposals to provide sales-tax exemptions for baby diapers, adult diapers and baby wipes (HB 163) and bed handles, hospital beds, lifts, handrails, toilet seat risers (HB 1123).



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