Tax cut package clears Senate budget

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A tax-cut package that includes the second phase of Gov. Rick Scott’s attempt to get rid of the state’s corporate income tax sailed through the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday, setting it up for likely approval later this week, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

The measure (HB 7087) was amended in the committee to mirror the outline of a deal that Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander said had been struck with the House. In all, the cuts contained in the bill would cost the state $77.9 million in the budget year that begins July 1 and $119.6 million in future years.

Among the provisions is a doubling of the exemption for the state corporate income tax from $25,000 to $50,000; lawmakers moved the exemption up to $25,000 last year in a compromise with Scott over his goal of getting rid of the tax.

The wide-ranging package would also make changes to the state’s sales tax exemptions, entertainment tax credits and credits for businesses in high-crime areas.

However, it would not create a preference for Florida-based businesses when bidding for state contracts, which sparked a short-lived attempt by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, to stick that provision into the measure. Bogdanoff argued that the amendment would help several businesses — including printers who have lost contracts to out-of-state vendors over relatively small differences in bids.

“This is just an opportunity to try to keep more business in the state of Florida in a struggling economy,” Bogdanoff said.

But Bogdanoff’s amendment ran into resistance from fellow Republicans, who argued against the bill both on the idea that it would imperial the agreement with the House as the Friday finale of the session looms and would interfere with the free market.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, said out-of-state contractors might decide not to bid on government projects if the preference were in place, getting rid of the incentive for in-state companies to submit their best offers.

“Let the competitive market take place, and we will always end up with a better deal,” Bennett said.

But Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, noted that multiple contractors from inside the state would likely turn in bids.

“At least we know they’re Florida businesses,” she said.

Bogdanoff withdrew the amendment.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.