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Scott to kick off tax-and-fee cutting tour in West Palm Beach

Friday, September 6th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A week after announcing he planned to cut state taxes and fees by $500 million next year, Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that he’s taking that message on a five-city tour next week – beginning Tuesday in West Palm Beach.

The “It’s Your Money” tour will last from Tuesday through Friday with details on the stops still to come. Along with West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa will host visits by Scott.

Scott unveiled his election-year give-back plan last week at a convention in Orlando of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative activist group that is closely alligned with the tea party movement. Scott has provided no specifics on his tax-and-fee cutting approach, but will undoubtedly helped by a state budget surplus that analysts say will be at least $845 million next year.

Anti-union language stays in Rick Scott tax breaks for now

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida businesses could save more than $100 million in taxes next year and shoppers would get another “tax-free” holiday under measures now on their way to the Florida Senate.

The House approved Gov. Rick Scott’s corporate tax break package (HB 7087) with a 92-22 vote that garnered support from more than a dozen Democrats despite concern from others that an anti-union component adopted late yesterday is unconstitutional.

The $121.1 million-a-year tax break plan would double the corporate tax exemption from $25,000 to $50,000. The new exemption would allow more than 3,500 small businesses to stop paying corporate income taxes altogether.

The tax plan also boosts tax credits for business investments in low-income communities and expands tax breaks for agriculture, industrial machinery, aircrafts and the entertainment industry.

Late yesterday, House GOP leaders amended the bill to require businesses that receive the tax credits to certify that they do not employ union workers. The anti-union language was tacked on in retaliation after Democrats tried to modify the bill to limit who would get the tax breaks.

The union restrictions make the bill unconstitutional, argued some Democrats during debate Wednesday afternoon.

But bill sponsor Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, said that shouldn’t make any difference.

“Yeah, there may be a judge somewhere who disagrees about whether or not it’s constitutional,” Precourt said. “So you’re just going to let some judge who might call it on you later on stop you from helping Floridians in some way?”

The House also unanimously approved a popular three-day sales tax holiday (HB 737) Aug. 3-5. The tax-free long weekend is estimated to cost the state and local governments about $31.8 million.

Partisan scuffle over privatization and tax breaks yields hot air and jerked knees

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich got the last word in a partisan flame war with Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner over firing prison workers vs. closing a corporate tax loophole.

Rich launched the skirmish when she fired off a statement accusing Senate President Mike Haridopolos of ignoring her proposal that would net $500 million a year by putting an end to the “water’s edge” tax break multi-state corporations receive but companies based only in Florida do not.

“If the Senate President is serious about reportedly fighting ‘like hell to try to find some savings,’ he needs to redirect the Senate’s aim to where the confirmed savings can be found,” Rich, D-Weston, said.

Senate budget chief JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, estimates the state could save at least $16.5 million a year with a prison privatization measure that would outsource Department of Corrections operations in an 18-county region in southern Florida. The embattled proposal is now on hold in the Senate and prompted Haridopolos to eject Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, as chairman of the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee for his public vilification of the plan.

Gardiner accused Rich of employing a “knee-jerk, Democratic reaction” of raising taxes on already struggling Florida families and businesses. The Orlando Republican said the savings from the outsourcing would be better spent on education or health care in a time when lawmakers are fighting to close a $1.4 billion budget hole.

“It is irresponsible to trivialize a significant, multimillion-dollar savings,” Gardiner shot back in a statement. “It is my hope that we will soon see more solution-oriented language from the senator and less hot air.”

Rich didn’t leave it at that. She blamed her GOP counterpart of more “of the strong-armed tactics the Republican leadership is currently deploying to ram through” the privatization proposal.

“When a member of the Republican leadership deliberately distorts my words advocating for corporations to finally pull their own weight as a “knee jerk reaction” of “raising taxes” on Floridians, his so-called ‘response’ is not only wrong, but patently false. He’s correct, we ‘don’t need bills that raise taxes,’” Rich responded.

Rich’s proposal (SB 1590), which has not yet been heard in committee, levels the playing field for in and out-of-state businesses, she argued.

“Given the events Floridians have watched unfold this week – the inability to muster the votes to layoff thousands of corrections officers from their jobs, the punishment of a Republican Senator rightly critical of the prison privatization scheme, and now the accusation that Democrats want to raise taxes because the GOP so fears my legislation that could spare Floridians from the additional loss of critical services already cut to the bone – Senator Gardiner would do well to admit the real agenda behind their ‘teachers versus corrections officers’ privatization drive,” Rich said.

Senate prez dashes guv’s hopes for biz tax cuts

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 by Dara Kam

With a $3.5 billion budget hole looming, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said it’s highly unlikely that lawmakers will approve any new – or expand any existing – tax breaks for businesses.

That would put Gov. Rick Scott’s plans to do eventually do away with the state’s corporate income taxes on hold, at least for this year.

“I don’t see that happening at this point. That’s something I’d like to do. But we’re $3.5 billion short and the promise of no tax increases, I don’t see the math yet. But Rick Scott is a very able executive. If he and his budget team can find a way to make it happen, we’re going to be all ears,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, told reporters during a Q-and-A this afternoon.

No more tax breaks would also put on ice Scott’s proposed expansion of school vouchers paid for by businesses, one of the governor’s top priorities.

“There’s probably no bigger advocate of tax cuts in the legislature,” Haridopolos said. “I’m a big proponent of tax cuts. This is not a year I can afford to push them through.”

Haridopolos: ‘We will not raise taxes a single dime.’

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Flanked by his wife and children, a tearful Mike Haridopolos took the gavel in the Senate, pledging to not raise taxes even as Florida faces a $2.5 billion budget shortfall.

“We will do more with less. We will tighten our own belt. And we will not raise taxes a single dime,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said after outgoing Senate President Jeff Atwater passed him the ceremonial torch.

A choked up Haridopolos got even more tearful when speaking of his immigrant father.

“You’ve given me a incredible honor and opportunity, and I’ll cherish it,” Haridopolos, 40, said. “My father was not even born in this country and his son is sitting here today. That’s what America’s all about. And I want to be proud of that.”

Back-to-school shoppers to get three days of cheap-stuff savings in August

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Florida shoppers won’t have to pay taxes on clothes, shoes, books and some other stuff that costs less than $50 or school supplies like notebooks and pens less than $10 for three days in August.

Gov. Charlie Crist signed the Aug. 13-15 tax-free holiday (HB 483) into law today, reviving the popular shopping savings lawmakers nixed for the past two years because of the state’s anemic tax collections.

This year’s tax holiday – a slimmed-down version of 2007′s 10-day savings schedule – is expected to cost the state $21.3 million and local governments nearly $5 million, according to a legislative staff analysis.

Items in the tax-free shopping basket, initiated in 2009, include backpacks, diaper bags, wallets and purses but not briefcases or luggage.

UPDATE: Sink-McCollum smackdown, Part II

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The gubernatorial campaign fur continues to fly in the battle between Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Attorney General Bill McCollum, this time over what is a tax “cut” and whether they’re good or bad for businesses.

Sink’s campaign took a swing at McCollum for opposing tax cuts for small businesses to jump-start the economy and create jobs.

In fact, McCollum told reporters yesterday that he didn’t think targeted tax credits or incentives work out so great in the long term.

Here’s what McCollum said after a speech to the National Federation of Independent Business.

“Targeted tax credits, in my experience in Washington, were minimally effective. They can be in the short run but they’re not in the long run very effective,” the former Congressman said.

After the two campaigns traded insults on other matters throughout the day, Sink’s campaign blasted McCollum for being against tax cuts.

“Career politician Bill McCollum says tax cuts don’t work, but he’s just plain wrong- wrong for small businesses, wrong for our economy, and wrong for everyday Floridians. The choice in this election just got a little clearer- a career politician who cites his decades in Congress as a reason to oppose tax cuts versus a businesswoman who knows what it’s going to take to get our economy back on track,” reads a press release issued by Sink’s campaign spokeswoman Conchita Cruz.

Hang on.

McCollum spoke about tax credits or tax incentives. Are they the same as tax cuts?

“He said tax credits and tax credits are tax cuts,” Sink said in an e-mail from Cruz.

This from McCollum’s campaign spokeswoman Kristy Campbell.

“It is laughable that Alex Sink, who has made thousands in personal campaign contributions to liberal tax-and-spend Democrats, would try to assert she is a fiscal conservative. Following more political stunts from her official office at taxpayer expense, Alex Sink has resorted to ridiculous attempts to obfuscate the facts.

“Bill McCollum has a bullet-proof record of fighting to cut taxes across the board for families and businesses that speaks for itself,” Campbell said in a press release.

Unemployment expected to hit 12 percent; House Dems dis GOP budget-cutting method

Thursday, January 21st, 2010 by Dara Kam

First, the good news: Florida’s economic woes have hit bottom, the legislature’s chief economist Amy Baker told the Senate yesterday.

Now, the bad news: The state’s unemployment rate is expected to climb to 12 percent as early as Friday when the most recent job numbers are released, Baker said.

And more bad news for lawmakers as they struggle to craft a budget with up to $3.3 billion – about 4 percent – less than they had for this year’s $66.5 billion spending plan.

Although the national recession is over, Florida’s not going to show an economic recovery for at least another year, Baker and University of Florida economist David Denslow told the Ways and Means Committee, which about 30 of the 40-member chamber attended after Senate President Jeff Atwater asked them to sit in.

“We think we’ve hit bottom and we’re going to hover around the bottom for a wile before we start picking up,” Baker said.

The economy will start picking up next spring, she said, but even with normal growth rates, the recovery is coming off a very low base level so the turn-around will be very slow.

It will be three years “before you’re going to be out of the hole on a lot of measures,” Baker said.

Read the story here.

On the other side of the fourth floor rotunda, House Democrats wrote a letter to GOP leaders saying they don’t like their approach in determining what the state’s critical needs are.

They want to look not only at expenditures but at revenues as well. (Translation: higher taxes?)

But that’s not likely to happen on the Senate side.

Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, told his members yesterday he “won’t extract another dollar” from Floridians.

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