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Business groups oppose tax break swap

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

A coalition of Florida business groups is giving the thumbs-down to state Sen. Anitere Flores’ proposal to pay for a cut in the state’s tax on mobile phone and satellite and cable TV service by repealing a tax break to insurers.

The legislation (SB 378) would swap the insurance break for a 2 percent reduction in the state’s communications services tax (CST). The proposal is a priority of Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

Negron earlier this year said he was looking to eliminate the insurance deal this year, a 15 percent tax credit on the salaries that insurers give their full-time workers here in the state.

But the coalition – including Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and the Florida Insurance Council (FIC) – on Monday suggested the move would be a net neutral.

Moreover, if the measure passes as is, Gov. Rick Scott could see himself jammed up by competing priorities: Cutting taxes for middle-class Floridians and keeping the state’s business community happy.

The state could see $300 million in communication tax savings, charged on mobile phone and satellite and cable TV service, but that would be eaten up by “a $300 million increase in insurance premiums, negatively impacting all Floridians,” according to a press release.

“These premium increases will at least be equal to the reduction in the CST, leaving consumers without any actual economic relief,” it said.

“Doing away with the tax credit will increase the tax burden on Florida insurers who employ more than 200,000 Floridians in typically high-wage paying jobs, and will endanger future job growth in the industry,” said Cecil Pearce, president of FIC. “The salary tax credit reduces the premium tax liability, which helps keep insurance premiums as low as possible.”

Flores’ bill, which does not yet have a House companion, has been referred to the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax, and the full Appropriations panel for hearings in the 2017 Legislative Session, which starts Tuesday.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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