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Omnibus Sales Tax Holiday Bill Passes The House

Sarah Sosiak

Florida sales tax holidays have become popular tools encouraging consumer spending on items like school supplies.  But the omnibus tax holiday bill that passed the House Thursday is leaving some lawmakers wanting more.

Besides back-to-school shopping, Rep. Ritch Workman’s (R-Melbourne) bill includes temporary exemptions for energy-efficient appliances, hurricane preparedness supplies, and gym memberships. It also offers a permanent exemption for child car seats and bicycle helmets.

“This is that patchwork of awesomeness we spoke about yesterday that includes all the tax holidays,” Workman says. “It includes the temporary sales tax exemption for manufacturing equipment, it includes the bicycle helmets and car seats exemption, and all of the goodness that we are going to give back to the citizens so they can keep more of their money.”

The bill passed, but some legislators don’t share Workman’s enthusiasm.  Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) says the back-to-school holiday should be permanent, and it should run longer.

“Three days is not enough, and so I would encourage all of you, especially those who are going to be around during conference, let’s work hard to make sure that we expand and extend this to beyond three days,” says Williams.

In 2007, the exemption ran for ten days, but disappeared in 2008 and 2009.  Since returning in 2010, the back-to-school tax break has been limited to three days, although last year it was expanded to include computers worth up to $750. 

Another complaint focused on a change in how taxes are calculated for natural gas and electricity. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Coral Springs) says this represents a tax on cities throughout the state.

“Under this big guise of a sales tax exemption, and giveaways, and sales tax deductions is a tax increase,” he says. “We are increasing taxes on every city and county that all of us represent in this entire body.”

Workman’s bill shifts the sales tax collected on energy to what’s known as a gross receipts tax.  Less money goes into the state’s general revenue fund – a pool of money shared by the state and municipalities.  It’s estimated there will be about $20 million less for local governments each year and less still for the state government if the bill becomes law.  But on the other hand, it’s not like the money just disappears.  Instead, it’s placed in the Public Education Capital Outlay and Debt Service trust fund known as PECO where it helps to finance public school maintenance and construction throughout Florida.