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Senate calls for tax code overhaul

Some of Florida’s Senators are calling for a comprehensive tax overhaul in the state. Regan McCarthy reports lawmakers say it’s time to stop piecing tax rules together bill by bill.

Legislators are considering a number of measures addressing the state’s tax policy. One bill, brought forward by Senator Nancy Detert, a Republican from Venice, is a proposed constitutional amendment to let the legislature double the tangible personal property tax exemption, increasing it from 25-thousand dollars to 50-thousand dollars. The legislation answers one of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s goals for decreasing the tax burden on businesses. Detert says when she started her own business 25 years ago she was shocked to see what the state taxed her for.

“I couldn’t believe I was taxed on my chair…my desk…and they came and sat down with me and told me what I forgot—my typewriter. And it’s the same old typewriter, it’s the same old computer from last year.”

Detert says she would like her bill to be part of a larger tax picture. She says the state should decide who it wants to tax and then figure out how to do it effectively.

“In the 17th Century the French taxed every room in your house, including the closet and then the French invented the Armoire to avoid a tax on a closet. So, we think of a tax, people think of a loophole.”

Detert says this proposal is a break for small businesses, and she says that’s a direction she thinks the legislature ought to go. But Senator Jeremy Ring, A Margate Democrat, says creating a tax policy bit by bit isn’t the way it to go.

We piece meal this stuff together, and whack local government more without doing anything comprehensive.”

And Senator Michael Bennett, a Bradenton Republican, says he doesn’t like the idea of tackling the issue one bill at a time either.

“We’re going to hear another joint resolution in a few minutes by Senator Norman, we heard several on the veterans. We’ve heard several on this and we’re writing tax code by amendment.”

Bennett says he hopes lawmakers can take a look at a more holistic tax policy this summer. He suggests creating a tax code study commission.

Detert’s bill also faced opposition from the Florida Association of Counties. Association spokesman David Suggs says the measure would allow legislators to change the tax every year. He says that could cause problems for counties that depend on the Levy.

“It’s different for every county. For some counties its 2 or 3-percent of their tax base. But when you look at Hardy county its 52-percent. So making a cut or providing an exception in Hardy County is drastically different than some of county where its 2,3,4,5-percent of their tax base.”

Detert’s proposal and implementing bill passed out of the Senate Community Affairs committee. She  says she hopes it will be a small piece of a larger plan to come. Ring, who voted in support of Detert’s proposal despite his concerns, says he’d like to help work on a comprehensive policy.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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