Rick Scott meets $500 million tax-cut goal, revives hurricane tax holiday

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Gov. Rick Scott met his election-year goal of $500 million in tax and fee cuts Monday, with a proposed 15-day hurricane sales-tax holiday.

If the Legislature approves the hurricane-supply tax holiday — the first since 2007 — taxpayers could save as much as $20 million.

Scott will announce his 2014-15 “tax cut” budget proposal Wednesday, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.

“This tax holiday will allow families to better protect and safeguard their homes during a storm,” Scott said in a statement released Monday.

The proposed tax break puts Scott over the top in tax- and fee-cut proposals, for an estimated $514 million for the upcoming legislative session.

Most of the tax savings come from a proposed rollback of 2009 vehicle-registration rate hikes, which will make up $401 million of the plan.

Republican legislators pushed through the hikes; Gov. Charlie Crist, Scott’s potential gubernatorial challenger who is now running as a Democrat, signed them into law.

As the Legislature crafts next year’s budget, Scott will also seek to extend the popular three-day sales tax holiday on back-to-school items such as clothes, supplies and electronics, lengthening it to 10 days. That move would reduce state revenues by another $33 million, as school sales tax already affects state and local revenue by as much as $60 million.

From 2005 through 2007, Florida enacted a hurricane-season holiday as a response to the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons when seven named storms made landfall in the state.

As the real-estate market softened, generating less money for the state, Florida abandoned the hurricane tax break.

Scott’s 15-day hurricane-tax holiday proposal surpasses SB 362 filed by Republican Sen. Rob Bradley, which suggests a 12-day tax break, estimated to save taxpayers about $3.8 million, according to the Revenue Estimating Conference.

Estimation of tax savings are difficult, Turner writes, since many Floridians have many storm-preparation items already in homes.

Tax-free items in a hurricane-tax holiday will include:

  • Flashlights and other self-powered lights priced under $20
  • Portable self-powered radios, two-way radios, or weather band radios priced under $50
  • Flexible waterproof sheeting and tarps selling for less than $50
  • First-aid kits costing under $30
  • Batteries such as AA, C, D, 6-volt, and 9-volt batteries that sell for less than $30
  • Portable generators priced under $750

Bradley’s proposal will come before the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on Feb. 3.

Republican state Rep. Matt Gaetz filed the House companion bill (HB 567), but it has yet to go before a committee.

Economists believe that the state will enter this year’s budget process with a surplus of about $1 billion.

While Scott calls for $500 million in tax and fee cuts, Turner reports the governor is also proposing increased spending for education, tourism, and support and improvements for the region’s natural waterways, springs and the Everglades.

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.