Three-day sales tax holiday looks like a dealby John Kennedy | April 27th, 2011
House and Senate budget negotiators were near agreement late Wednesday on enacting a three-day, back-to-school sales tax holiday next summer.
The House agreed with the Senate’s proposed $25.6 million tax break, with further details still to be ironed out. But it looks like the second straight year of a consumer giveaway, brought back last August after a two-year absence is assured.
“We’re a great believer in a three-day sales tax holiday…and I think the House is, too. We’re probably in agreement on that,” said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who is leading Senate budget negotiations with the House over a wide range of tourism and economic development issues.
Still unsettled is Gov. Rick Scott’s push for organizing economic development agencies under a newly constituted Commerce Department. The House and Senate are at odds over how to structure the agency — headed by a secretary reporting to Scott.
The governor Wednesday also suggested he could scale-back his ambitions — perhaps leaving the state’s employment arm, the Agency for Workforce Innovation, out of the department, along with Visit Florida, the tourism organization.
Enterprise Florida, the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development, and most of the Department of Community Affairs may all roll into the new Commerce Department, under varying proposals.
But one proposal by the House — and promoted by Scott’s office — looks like it faces long odds in the Senate. Scott and the House want the new commerce secretary to be able to have a salary supplemented by private-sector industries once job-performance standards are met.
Democratic Sen. Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood likened the proposal when first floated earlier this year, to ‘payola,’ recalling the radio pay-for-play scandals of the 1950s.
“There was some real concern about allowing someone to in effect be a regulator and also determine where incentives and economic development dollars would go, and then be compensated by some of those same private sector folks,” Gaetz said. “We have some real concerns…It’s very different from the Senate’s view of the matter.”
Scott’s proposed corporate income tax cut — a $333 million first-year reduction — also remains troubled in the Legislature.
Senate President Mike Hardipolos, R-Merritt Island, said about tax breaks, “there are a multitude of things that are on the table.” But the corporate cut may not be among them, he said.
“I know it’s the governor’s priority and we’re trying to get there to help him,” Haridopolos said. “But I’m in my eleventh session now. I’ve had very few people in my career come to me and say the reason why we are not coming to the state of Florida is the corporate tax rate.”