TALLAHASSEE — With back-slapping praise — and Republicans applauding Democrats — the Florida House on Thursday sent a $30 million corporate income tax cut to Gov. Rick Scott.
The House voted 110-5 for a tax break of $1,100 a year on average for 15,000 small businesses as Republicans vowed that it will be the first step in a multi-year effort to cut the state's annual $2 billion corporate tax.
The tax cut won bipartisan support as several Democrats and all 81 Republicans in the House argued that the measure will help small businesses.
"This is good-faith start towards removing this onerous burden on the very people we are relying on to start jobs in Florida," said Rep. Stephen Precourt, R-Orlando, sponsor of the bill.
The proposal was sent to Scott, who made it a campaign pledge to eliminate Florida's 40-year-old corporate income tax. While the measure is only a fraction of the $459 million in corporate income tax cuts sought by the governor this year, it was hailed by legislators as an incentive for job development.
Democratic Leader Ron Saunders of Key West, however, said he supported the idea but suggested it won't likely do much to create jobs. "This really helps eliminate small business paperwork but don't go back home and say this is huge tax break for small businesses," he said, "because $1,100 a year is not a huge tax break."
Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-West Palm Beach, said that he would have supported the measure if it helped only small businesses but opposed it because it gives large corporations the same tax break.
"We need to do other things before we help the big corporations, too," he said. "I do believe this is the first step toward ridding our state of corporate income tax and that's not something I support. I do believe corporations ought to pay their fair share and that we don't put the entire tax burden on individuals."
Legislators rejected a larger tax cut proposal offered by the governor two weeks ago in a last-minute attempt to make good on his campaign promise. The proposal would have gradually reduced corporate income taxes over seven years, beginning with a $333 million cut in January 2012.
The proposal would use a growth-based formula to cut the tax in the future, postponing the impact for years but giving Scott legislation to make good on his campaign promise.
Scott's staff presented the idea to the Senate just two weeks ago. Leaders scheduled a special meeting to hear the idea but the cost of the plan, which ballooned to $1 billion in 2013, was too high for lawmakers and it was postponed.
Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com.