Thursday, February 22, 2018
Politics

Rick Scott signs package of tax breaks

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott signed a tax cut package Thursday that — while vastly scaled back from what he wanted — eliminates the so-called "tampon tax" and offers tax holidays for back-to-school shoppers and Floridians preparing for hurricane season.

With the package offering $91.6 million in tax breaks during the coming year, Scott signed the measure during a ceremony at 3Cinteractive in Boca Raton.

"Since I've been in office, I've fought to cut taxes and reduce burdensome regulations to help boost Florida's economy and ensure our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to succeed in our great state," Scott said in a prepared statement.

The savings are projected to reach $180 million over two years due to some permanent cuts.

Scott had requested $618.4 million in cuts before the legislative session, and an initial House package approached $300 million. But the package was scaled back substantially as the House and Senate negotiated a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Business lobbying groups Thursday were quick to praise Scott for signing the package. Floridians will get the first tax breaks next week, when they can buy hurricane supplies without paying sales taxes during a three-day "holiday" starting June 2.

"These tax cuts are going to be huge this year," Florida Retail Federation spokesman James Miller said. "Business owners across the state are going to be really happy with the result of this."

The window on tax-free storm gear is timed with the start of the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1.

With the holiday estimated to save shoppers $4.5 million, sales taxes will not be collected during the period on items such as portable self-powered lights selling for $20 or less; portable self-powered radios and tarpaulins at $50 or less; first-aid kits up to $30; and portable generators up to $750.

The next high-profile savings, projected at $33.4 million, will come during a three-day back-to-school tax holiday set to begin Aug. 4.

Shoppers will be able to avoid paying sales taxes on clothes, footwear and backpacks costing $60 or less; school supplies costing $15 or less, and personal computers priced up to $750.

Two other key portions of the package, an elimination of sales taxes on feminine hygiene products and a reduction in a commercial lease tax, both go into effect Jan. 1.

With the issue known as the "tampon tax," eliminating sales taxes collected on products such as tampons, sanitary napkins and panty liners, is expected to save $4.8 million for Floridians next fiscal year. The savings are to slated to grow to $11.2 million when the tax cut is in effect for a full year.

"This commonsense legislation will result in a tax savings for women all over the state who purchase these necessary products," said Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican who led efforts to repeal the tax.

Meanwhile, a reduction in the commercial lease tax from 6 percent to 5.8 percent is projected to save businesses $25.4 million next fiscal year, with that total growing to $61 million when the cut is in effect for a full year.

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