Scott Proposes Sales Tax Break On Hurricane Prep Supplies

Jan 27, 2014

This photo shows some of the damage done by hurricane Wilma, the last major hurricane to hit Florida.
Credit Marco Isler http://goo.gl/yh5Gp8

Florida Governor Rick Scott says he wants to give some of the state’s projected surplus back to voters through a hurricane preparedness tax holiday. But some experts say there could be a better way to spend the money.

The top items on most hurricane preparedness checklists are food, water and any prescription drugs a person might need.  But in Florida, those items aren’t taxed anyway. So Scott’s tax holiday would give Floridians a break on items a little further down the list like flashlights, and batteries. Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon says those can be important items in a storm. And he says he hopes the holiday will help to fight hurricane apathy.

“We haven’t had a land falling hurricane since 2005 with Wilma, and every year more people move to Florida and every year you are removed from the last time you experienced a bad storm. The potential impacts diminish slightly in your memory. So, there is some potential impact that people may not take it as seriously as they need to,” Koon said.

But others say with a finite amount of money to spend on disaster preparedness in the state, there could be better uses.  University of South Florida Environmental and Occupational Health Professor Tom Mason says he thinks the state should be using its money for outreach and organization that trains neighborhood leaders how respond in case of an emergency.

“There’s a tremendous resource within this state and other states that needs to be enlisted and recognized and that needs to be basically available in the short run, because that’s the big deal. What happens in the first 24 to 72 hours?” Mason said.

Scott’s sales tax holiday is modeled after state’s back to school sales tax holiday, but will run for 15 days rather than just a weekend. Scott says it will save Floridians more than $20-million. Former Governor Charlie Crist approved a similar holiday in 2007.