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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

'The little tax cut package that could' starts rolling in the Senate



The Florida Senate pushed the first components of a 2016 tax cut package out of the starting gate Tuesday.

It's a long way until the end of the next regular session next March, but the Senate Finance & Tax Committee gave these early indications of its tax cut priorities: cutting the corporate income tax and business rents and the perenially popular back-to-school sales tax holiday. Taken together, all three tax cuts would save Floridians and businesses $182 million next year.

Gov. Rick Scott says he'll propose a tax cut package of more than the $673 million he pitched to the Legislature last spring, and may be aiming too high. Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, has suggested $250 million as the initial goal for a Senate tax cut package, noting that much of the projected increase in new revenue next year is one-time or non-recurring money.

Senate F & T Chairman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, is sponsoring a small cut in the corporate income tax rate by raising the exemption from the first $50,000 of income to the first $75,000 (SB 76) and cutting the sales tax on business rents from 6 percent to 5 percent (SB 116). In her third bill (SB 198), the back-to-school sales tax holiday would run from Aug. 5 through Aug. 14 and would continue to exempt clothing and footwear worth $100 or less from sales tax along with books worth $50 or less and the first $750 of the cost of a personal computer.

An array of business groups including retailers, Realtors, the Florida Chamber endorsed all three bills. The Florida Association of Counties endorsed the tax break for commercial rents. The Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, which claims to have 230,000 members in the state, testified in opposition to the corporate income tax and rental tax breaks, saying that Florida needs more money to adequately fund basic services.

"We are quite concerned that Florida's deteriorating situation undermines the well-being of current residents and poses a serious threat to future generations," FARA's Richard Polangin told senators. All three tax breaks passed unanimously with support from Republicans and Democrats Joe Abruzzo, Gwen Margolis and Darren Soto.

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 11:23am]


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