Adam Putnam announces bill for energy tax cut, sales tax holiday and $225M for schools

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Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam outlined today legislative proposals to reduce energy taxes on businesses by half, save consumers sales tax when they buy energy-efficient appliances and direct $225 million annually for education infrastructure improvements.

The measures — HB 899 and an upcoming companion in the Senate — were in collaboration with State Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. Mike Hill.

“Florida businesses pay more taxes on energy consumption than half of the other states in the Southeast, and our funding source for education infrastructure is nearly dried up,” Putnam said. “So I’m proposing a solution that will address both these concerns. We’re going to cut that tax in half and direct the remaining revenue to enhance Florida’s schools.”

Each bill includes a 50 percent tax cut on what businesses spend on energy consumption. Florida businesses now pay a 7 percent tax on energy, which would drop to 3.5 percent over three years. With that, businesses could save up to $225 million per year. 

Putnam said this tax cut would improve the business climate in Florida, as well as the state’s ability to compete with neighboring states for new business.

The bill also includes directing $225 million annually to support Florida schools by shifting revenue from the energy consumption tax to the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) program.

PECO provides both Florida’s university system and K-12 schools with resources to improve teaching and research facilities, as well as maintenance of existing facilities.

“First, I want to thank Commissioner Putnam for his efforts to provide relief to Florida’s businesses, consumers and education system,” said Flores. “These proposals will not only help provide the resources Florida’s students need to succeed in school and compete in a global economy, the tax cuts and tax holiday will have a significant impact on Florida communities and businesses.”

“I am proud to work with Commissioner Putnam and Sen. Flores on this proposal to save Florida businesses and consumers money,” Hill added. “Our bill cuts the taxes in half that businesses pay on energy consumption and levels the playing field for Florida to compete with other states for business.”

Another of Putnam’s proposals is a tax holiday weekend for consumers purchasing energy-efficient appliances.

If passed, the holiday would run Friday, Sept. 19, through Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. There would be no sales tax on the first $1,500 on purchases of energy-efficient appliances – washers, refrigerators, air conditioners, and devices that use water efficiently, such as toilets, showerheads and irrigation controllers.

Putnam’s office estimates the bill will save more than $375,000 for consumers and produce an almost 20 percent increase for retailers and manufacturers, which could be as much as $900,000 in sales for Florida businesses.

Present to support Putnam’s proposals were representatives from Florida International University, Florida Retail Federation, University of North Florida, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Florida Retail Federation, Best Buy and Underground Utility Contractors of Florida among others.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.