Florida Corporations Get a Bigger Tax Break, Shoppers Get Another Sales Tax Holiday
FlaglerLive | February 16, 2012
The Florida House approved a series of tax breaks, hoping to free thousands of businesses from corporate-income taxes and put extra money in the pockets of back-to-school shoppers.
House members went along with Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to increase the corporate-income tax exemption from $25,000 to $50,000, passing it as part of a broader economic-development bill.
Scott, in a statement, said it was “a huge victory” for Floridians, and would help businesses create more jobs, though there is little evidence that such tax breaks spur job creation, and some evidence that the tax breaks are closer to corporate welfare.
The issue sparked a partisan fight Tuesday, as Democrats tried to tack conditions onto the additional exemption — and Republicans fired back by limiting the tax break to businesses that do not employ union workers.
Some Democrats continued to criticize the income-tax proposal Wednesday, contending that it would primarily help large corporations and do little for small businesses.
“This bill does nothing to sweeten the pot for the middle class or the working families in this state,” said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach.
But Finance and Tax Chairman Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, said lawmakers need to put aside procedural disputes and “partisan rhetoric.” He said the higher exemption would allow nearly 4,000 businesses to avoid paying corporate-income taxes altogether.
“This is not about the big guys, the big corporations, the fat cats,” said Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami. “This is about jobs.”
The House voted 92-22 to approve the economic-development package, which also includes new or expanded tax breaks related to agricultural packing houses, aircraft repairs and industrial machinery and equipment.
A House analysis said the package eventually would eliminate about $121 million a year in tax revenues for state and local governments.
“By allowing more than 3,500 businesses to stop paying income taxes and instead put that money into jobs, and maximizing incentives to make Florida more attractive to quality manufacturing jobs, the Florida House has demonstrated it knows what it takes to help grow private-sector jobs,” Scott said in a statemet after the vote.
Also Wednesday, the House voted unanimously to hold a “sales tax holiday” from Aug. 3 through Aug. 5 that would be geared to back-to-school shoppers.
The plan (HB 737) would allow shoppers to avoid paying sales taxes on items such as clothing, shoes and bags that cost $75 or less. Also, they would receive a sales-tax exemption for school supplies valued at $15 or less.
House members also approved a bill (HB 87) on Wednesday that would provide tax incentives for companies that want to produce oil from abandoned wells in parts of Northwest and Southwest Florida.
Pafford questioned whether that bill would open wells in Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park. But sponsor Matt Hudson, R-Naples, said the bill, which passed 80-36, would help put people back to work and put Florida on a “path to energy independence.”
The Senate has not approved the economic-development package, the sales-tax holiday or the oil-production tax incentives.
But Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, said the House is requesting that the Senate pass the measures or include them in budget negotiations.
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida