Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida's House, Senate lay out different plans for taxes

TALLAHASSEE — On a day most taxpayers dread, Florida lawmakers spent April 15 pushing bills to provide tax relief.

But don't start spending yet — they also made headway on repealing some sales tax exemptions, such as on magazine subscriptions and ostrich feed, that would have some taxpayers paying more.

A Senate committee easily approved a constitutional amendment Wednesday to give first-time home buyers a tax break on their new homes for five years. The measure, approved by the Senate Finance and Tax Committee, would be placed on the November 2010 ballot to take effect in 2011.

It would be a blessing for "young couples who may want to get a first home … or even for someone like me, who never bought a home," Gov. Charlie Crist said at a surprise appearance before the committee. "And I'd like to buy my first home."

If approved by voters, the proposed amendment is seen as a way to shrink Florida's inventory of 300,000 unsold homes by creating a new homestead exemption for first-time buyers that would be added to the existing homestead exemption all homeowners receive. The exemption would be equal to 25 percent of a home's market value, up to $100,000, and would phase out until it disappeared after the fifth year.

The House version of the bill is more generous. It creates a 50 percent tax break on a home's value of up to $250,000, phased out over five years. This version is expected to be approved by the House next week.

In the House, the Finance and Tax Council used tax day to overcome years of opposition to repealing sales tax breaks. It proposes eliminating $29 million in exemptions in exchange for two sales tax holidays.

Among the exemptions that would be repealed: those for fitness clubs owned by hospitals; sky box rentals for college and high school games; ostrich feed; charter fishing boats; private charter jet services; and newspapers and magazines delivered by mail. Coin-operated arcade machines would also see their tax rate rise from 4 to 6 percent.

In return, the state would hold two sales tax holidays: June 5-7 for hurricane supplies and Aug. 8-10 for back-to-school purchases.

The sales tax holidays would be only for one year, but the sales tax repeals would be permanent.

"It's important when we're up here talking about big-picture issues that we talk about how (consumers) are going to get their kids' shoes and prepare for hurricane season," said Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, the Fort Lauderdale Republican who chairs the House Finance and Tax Council. The committee will vote on the bill today.

But Senate leaders are not as enthusiastic about the House tax swap and prefer to focus on eliminating corporate and real estate tax loopholes to fill the state budget hole.

Senate Finance and Tax Committee chairman Thad Altman, a Melbourne Republican, said the Senate had "bigger fish to fry" than to spend precious time on political fights over tax exemptions. And, he suggested, the sales tax holiday was a questionable pursuit.

"We don't really know if these tax savings are truly being passed on to the taxpayer," Altman said.

Overshadowing the House and Senate tax debates is the state's crushing $3 billion budget deficit and two very different approaches to fixing it before the session ends May 1. "We're polarized," Bogdanoff observed. "We've got to come together at some point."

Both the House and Senate committees agree on one constitutional amendment, however: a measure to make it easier for property tax payers to challenge their property assessments by requiring appraisers to justify how they arrived at the value.

In other tax-related legislation Wednesday:

• The Senate Finance and Tax Committee took up a bill eliminating the advantage given to online travel services, such as Orbitz and Travelocity, which are allowed to charge consumers for sales and bed taxes they don't return to the state.

The measure is being pushed by local governments and hotel associations but is being blocked in the House by supporters of the online travel service companies.

• Meanwhile, the Senate Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Committee attached a $2 rental car tax to fund local transit projects to a bill creating a transit line in Central Florida for CSX Rail lines.

Staff writers Alex Leary, Marc Caputo and Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com.

Florida's House, Senate lay out different plans for taxes 04/15/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 11:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. College football week 4: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

    College

    The Times' college football coverage team makes its picks for week 4 of the college football season:

    USF coach Charlie Strong and the Bulls face Temple in a 7:30 p.m. game Thursday at Raymond James Stadium. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. KB Home cuts CEO's bonus after vulgar rant at Kathy Griffin (w/video)

    Real Estate

    NEW YORK — One of the nation's biggest homebuilders is putting its top executive on notice after a vulgar rant against comedian Kathy Griffin was caught on tape and went viral.

    Comic Kathy Griffin and KB Home CEO Jeffrey Mezger are neighbors. [Associated Press]
  3. Men of Vision get to work after Hurricane Irma

    K12

    Answering the call to action after the departure of Hurricane Irma, they cleaned up fallen branches in mid-Tampa neighborhoods and in Rowlett Park, where they toiled alongside Tampa city workers, and they came out in force to clean up the Hillsborough River, pulling out gas cans, trash cans, old tires and even a …

    hillsmov092217: The Men of Vision helped clean up Rowlett Park in the wake of Hurricane Irma last week. Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Public Schools.
  4. Visitors get in free Saturday at Tampa Bay History Center

    Education

    Times staff

    TAMPA — Nothing to do Saturday? Go back in history.

    Machine gun at the ready, a paratrooper of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Brigade advances cautiously  near Hue, South Vietnam on April 3, 1968.
  5. MacDill chuckling as UFO website reports 'flying triangles' at base: Howard Altman

    Macdill

    My Twitter feed on MacDill Air Force Base has been out of this world lately.

    Literally.

    Michael Salla, who runs an extraterrestrial research website, claims these are images taken of UFOs near MacDill Air Force Base earlier this month. [Exopolitics.org]