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Rick Scott signs $400 million tax-cut package into law

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After working alongside members of the House in a coordinated “No Tax is Safe” tax-cutting crusade, Gov. Rick Scott today signed into law HB33A, a tax package that reduces rates on the Communications Services Tax, reduces various licensure fees and creates a “supercharged” 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday, to use state Rep. Matt Gaetz‘s jaunty phrase.

“Giving Floridians back more of the money they earn in tax cuts is the best thing we can do to keep Florida’s economy growing,” Scott said in a news release on Tuesday. “Cutting Florida’s cell phone and TV tax is particularly important because it will save money for Florida families who pay a cell phone, satellite or cable TV bill.”

The House and Senate fought for months over how much of the states funds — including a projected budget surplus — should go back to the taxpayers and how much should go toward making Florida hospitals whole, in the wake of a severe reduction in federal money for the so-called Low Income Pool, a pot of money that reimburses hospitals for uncompensated care.

The tax proposal, a major priority of the governor, was once as large as $690 million in the House budget, though going into a June special Session, the Senate had appropriated no money to account for it.

The $400 million figure now set to take effect July 1 is likely to be seen as acceptable for all sides, as the Republican-controlled Senate’s appetite for tax reduction, while not as ravenous as the House or governor, is still significant. Face is saved all around in the deal, which public interest groups have said brings Florida’s already low revenue rates compared to comparably sized states to a level not adequate to serve its more than 19 million residents.

“Florida’s budget had an over $1 billion budget surplus this year because of the hard work of Floridians, and this tax cut package will send more than $400 million back to the people who earned it,” Scott continued Tuesday. “I applaud the Florida House and the Florida Senate for their work on this legislation and I look forward to working with them to keep cutting taxes next year and to keep Florida working.”

Conservative groups were quick to praise the move.

Associated Industries of Florida, the state’s self-proclaimed “voice of business,” gave plaudits to Scott in a statement on Tuesday.

“We applaud Governor Rick Scott for delivering significant savings to Florida families today with the signing of HB 33A.  The more than $400 million in tax cuts includes the reduction to the Communications Services Tax, which will provide relief to Florida families that pay annual wireless and television service taxes,” said AIF President Tom Feeney, former speaker of the Florida House.

“We believe it is imperative to foster an economic climate in our state that allows businesses to grow and its people to succeed.  And, broad-based tax cuts, like the CST, do just that by keeping money in Floridians’ pockets and allowing businesses to flourish in a competitive environment.”

The Florida Retail Federation was feeling grateful to Scott and the Legislature as well.

“We applaud Governor Scott for signing this important piece of legislation which is significant for the more than 270,000 retailers statewide,” said Rick McAllister, president of the FRF. “I also want to thank Representative Matt Gaetz and Senators Tom Lee and Dorothy Hukill for their leadership in ensuring that Florida’s families and businesses have a successful and productive back-to-school shopping experience.”

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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