Scott gets his (downsized) corp tax breakby John Kennedy | May 5th, 2011
The Florida House approved a $30 million cut in the state’s corporate income tax Thursday, giving Gov. Rick Scott a small share of the deep reduction in the levy the first-year chief executive had sought.
In the usually heavily partisan House, many Democrats joined with ruling Republicans in sending the measure to the governor, who has said he sees the cut as a good first-step. The measure (CS/HB 7185) was OK’d 110-5.
“Florida’s open for business,” said Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale. “We’re cutting taxes.”
Scott sought a $459 million, first-year reduction in the state’s corporate income tax, by reducing the state’s 5.5 percent rate to 3 percent.
House and Senate budget-writers, though, agreed only to a $30 million cut, increasing the state’s exemption on corporate taxpayers.
Currently, businesses are exempt from the corporate levy if their payments would total less than $5,000. The legislation would boost that exemption to $25,000, with supporters saying it effectively exempts almost half of Florida’s 30,000 businesses now paying the tax, taking mostly smaller companies off the tax roll.
Rep. Steven Precourt, R-Orlando, sponsor of the measure, said it would save these companies an average $1,100-a-year.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said the tax reduction will eventually help state lawmakers, by helping generated more tax dollars to fuel future budgets. Lawmakers this year struggled to close an almost $3.8 billion budget shortfall in the $69.7 billion spending plan awaiting a vote Friday, the session’s final scheduled day.
“Small businesses are tax collectors,” Baxley said. “I’ve got dozens of small businesses back home and they’ve shuttered their doors and they don’t send taxes to us anymore. That’s why we’re in a $4 billion hole.”
Only a handful of Democrats voted against the cut.
Among them was Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, who said it would do little for businesses and was a move toward eventually eliminating the corporate levy — which he opposes.
Clemens said, “I appreciate the intent,” of helping small businesses. But he criticized lawmakers for not setting aside dollars for teacher merit pay and moving to cut unemployment compensation benefits for Florida’s jobless.
Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, said she supports the tax cut. But providing better financing for schools and health and human services is what will help businesses prosper, she said.
“We can’t take our eye off that ball,” Schwartz said.