Adam Putnam knows energy tax cut will be hard sell to Legislature

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Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam admits his sales tax cut on energy used by businesses will be a hard sell in the 2014 Legislature.

Putnam told Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida that he stands behind the proposal reduce the 7 percent tax by half, as well as redirect remaining proceeds to school construction and maintenance projects.

With the competing projects for Gov. Rick Scott’s push to reduce $500 million in taxes and fees, Putnam understands the challenge he faces in 2014.

“I’ve been in their shoes, I know they’ve got a lot of ideas,” the former lawmaker told the News Service in a Capitol conference room. “They’ve got a budget they need to balance, and concerns about a surplus that hopefully will continue to be as robust as they’ve projected.”

“But given the uncertainty of the national economy,” he added, “we may not know until March just what type of budget outlook we have and how much there is to make the type of investments this might cost.”

Putnam’s proposal to reduce electricity business sales tax to 3.5 percent could save up to $250 million a year. Additional revenues would go to the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) program as opposed to the state’s general revenue.

State economists forecast a surplus of $845.7 million for the 2014-15 budget years, setting off a flurry of proposals to help achieve Scott’s goal of a $500 million tax cut.

Sen. Joe Negron, chair of the Senate Appropriations Chairman, already proposed rolling back half of an unpopular 2009 vehicle-registration fee hike. That cut could provide $12 average savings for each vehicle registration, saving motorists $182 million next year, $239 million the following year and $244 million the year after that.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, chair of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee, proposes a two percent decrease in Florida’s communications-services tax, a $282 million savings, as well as another cuts rental taxes from 6 percent to 5 percent, cutting $250 million a year.

Rep. Ritch Workman, chair of the House Finance and Tax Committee, insists the Legislature is not obligated to Scott’s $500 million mark. Final numbers depend in part the projected state budget surplus after the Legislature constructs a final package.

Putnam recently announced his plan during the Oct. 14 Florida Energy Summit in Orlando, with a package including an annual sales-tax holiday for energy-saving appliances.

Another suggestion was expanding the residential property-tax exemption to commercial properties for installing renewable-energy systems.

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.