Senate Prepares To Vote On Reduced Tax Cut Package

Mar 10, 2016

Credit Nick Evans

It may be a shell of its former self, but Thursday, Senate lawmakers moved forward with a tax cut package for the coming year.  The proposal seems likely to return to the House only about one tenth the size it was when it left.

In February on the House floor, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) proudly unveiled his work for the year.

“This legislation represents a $1 billion investment in the people of Florida,” Gaetz said at the time.   

But then you know what they say about the best laid plans. 

His billion dollar tax cut included big ticket items like a cut in the business rent tax, a series of sales tax holidays and permanent elimination of the tax on manufacturing equipment.  

The measure had a lot of supporters in the House.

“Can you tell me what other states have taxes on manufacturing equipment?”  Rep. Lake Ray (R-Jacksonville) asked.  “It’s not plural.  It’s one, and it begins with a C, and I think everyone knows where that is.  It’s on the left coast of the United States.”

Of course, there were detractors like Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami), too.

“That’s really, what I guess you could look at as faith-based economics,” Rodriguez said.  “It’s a religion of trickle down which I think has been discredited but continues to permeate here.”

Gaetz's proposal passed the House easily, but in the end, it seems a billion dollars in tax cuts was always a fantasy.  Even the House plan spread the cut over two years, and it would’ve required the Senate to set aside its priority to fund Enterprise Florida.  House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says there simply isn’t enough money in state coffers for both efforts.

“As I’ve said all along, 132 percent of our discretionary spending was laid out in a tax proposal and an economic incentives package,” Crisafulli says.  “That was prior to the revenue estimating conference meeting, so certainly the resources were not there to do all of that, and as I’ve said the House focused on tax cuts the Senate focused on economic incentives.”

Thursday Port Orange Republican senator Dorothy Hukill brought up the Senate’s take on the tax cut package.  

Gone is a cut for the business rent tax.  Narrowed is the slate of sales tax holidays.  But the Senate is still zeroing out the sales tax on manufacturing equipment.

“The fiscal impact of this package is $129 million in tax reductions,” Hukill says.

Oh how the might have fallen.

Aside from the manufacturing equipment tax, the package’s other big cut is a back to school tax holiday.  It’s the only one to survive the Senate’s haircut, but lawmakers have reduced it from 10 days to three. 

The measure is slated for a final Senate vote Friday—which is also the last day of session.  If the Senate approves the bill it returns to the house where lawmakers are likely to bring it up quickly.  Either way, the legislature’s decision on tax cuts will come down to the wire.