Governor's Tax Cut Takes Another Step In The Senate

Mar 16, 2015

Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange)
Credit The Florida Channel

Gov. Rick Scott wants to cut over half a billion dollars in taxes in the coming fiscal year—much of that coming from a reduction in taxes on cell phone and cable bills.  The plan is moving forward in the Senate.

$470 million.  No doubt, it’s a whole lot of money, and Gov. Scott wants to leave it in Floridians’ pockets, through a 3.6 percent cut to the communications services tax, or CST.  It’s a surcharge added to your cell phone, cable or satellite bill. 

“This tax relief is broad-based,” Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) says. “It’s consumer friendly, and it will help the over 18 million or so cell phone users in the state of Florida.”

Hukill is sponsoring the measure in the Senate, and she moved it through the chamber’s Finance and Tax committee—which she chairs—Monday.  

But spread across all those millions of tax payers, the emphasis shifts a bit.  470 million becomes a lot less important than 3.6.  As in, if you spend $100 on your monthly cell phone bill you’d spend $96.40 instead. 

Everyone likes saving money, but some lawmakers have argued a more targeted cut could offer a greater return on investment.  

Nevertheless the bill is getting strong support on both sides of the aisle.

“Sen. Hukill, thanks for bringing forward the good—this good bill,” Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) says.  “I think this is a tax bill that both parties can get behind because it’s going to help out so many Floridians.”

Fellow traveler Sen. Joseph Abruzzo (R-Wellington) echoes Soto, “This is a very good bill, where we have given a lot of tax breaks, but this goes to the consumers.” 

Although they both supported the measure, some questions remain.

“Do you think we’ll be able to afford it?” Soto asked Hukill.

She responded, “That’s a great, great question, Senator.  As you know we are very early in session; we are very early in budget negotiations,”

If that response sounds familiar it’s because it’s the same thing many Republican power-brokers are saying in the face of more than $1 billion in federal funds drying up in the not-too-distant future.  Low income pool, or LIP, funding reimburses hospitals that treat the poor, and Scott included the funding in his budget proposal.  But the program is set to end, and the federal government wants Florida to expand Medicaid instead. 

But some questions are a bit dubious—for instance, some are fretting over whether consumers will see any savings.  But Hukill shut this argument down.

“I can’t say this enough,” she says, “consumers pay the tax, companies collect the tax and they remit the tax.  Sales tax is audited constantly, CST is audited constantly.  This is a good bill.”

But while Hukill’s bill is drawing bipartisan support in the Senate, the lower chamber has yet to take action. 

“I am inspired by the Governor’s enthusiasm to cut taxes.” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) said in February after seeing a presentation of the Governor’s plan in the House Finance and Tax Committee. 

“He’s making good on a campaign promise to give the Legislature the opportunity to cut $1 billion in taxes over the next two years,” Gaetz continued.

Although Gaetz chairs the committee, the House has yet to file a bill making the Govenor’s proposed 3.6 percent tax cut.