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Expect more tax cuts next year, state leaders say

The House speaker says lower property and "intangibles" taxes are goals for next year.

The Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush gave out more than $1-billion in tax breaks last spring, the largest tax cut in state history.

But there's more tax relief to come.

Bush and House Speaker John Thrasher said Thursday they plan to cut taxes next budget year as well. "You better believe it," Thrasher said after a luncheon meeting with Bush.

As it did this year, the Legislature would likely cut property taxes and continue a phase-out of the unpopular "intangibles" tax on stocks and bonds, Thrasher said.

He would also like the Legislature to approve another sales tax holiday that allows shoppers to buy clothing costing up to $100 without having to pay state sales tax. The sales tax holiday is going on this week.

Bush was not specific Thursday about what cuts he would propose for 2000-2001. But his budget staff already has begun looking into various tax relief proposals. "Tax cuts is a policy he (Bush) wants to pursue, just like education," Bush's budget director, Donna Arduin, said.

Politically, the time would be good for more tax cuts. The Legislature would be approving a budget, and tax cuts, in the spring of 2000, just a few months before the November elections.

Last legislative session, lawmakers were awash in cash, with more than $4-billion extra to spend because of a booming economy, an influx of new federal dollars and proceeds from Florida's landmark settlement with tobacco companies.

Arduin said she doesn't expect as much extra cash next budget year. For example, legislative economists are expecting at least $830-million more to come in from the tobacco settlement, but much of that will be used for projects approved this year and a new endowment for health programs.

"We can't make firm plans until we know how the budget will come out," said Sen. Jim Horne, R-Orange Park, who heads the Senate committee that reviews tax relief proposals.

Horne said he also is committed to continuing the Legislature's phase-out of intangibles taxes as well as the per-drink taxes on alcoholic beverages, which would save money for restaurants and bars. Those cuts would be worth nearly $300-million.

His next priority would be property tax cuts, Horne said, because "the governor is adamant about broad-based cuts, and I promised him that would stay high on our radar screen."

Senate President Toni Jennings would like to improve safety in public schools, said spokeswoman Edie Ousley. However, as she did last spring, Jennings would support tax cuts as long as other state priorities, such as public education, have been met.