Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday signed into law a wide-ranging tax cut package that will reduce costs on cell-phone bills, cable TV bills, gun club memberships, college textbooks and luxury boat repairs.
The signing came a day after the measure (HB 33A) was overwhelmingly approved by the House and Senate.
For many Floridians, the biggest checkbook item may be a reduction in the communications-services tax on cell-phone and cable-TV bills. The savings are projected at $20 a year for people paying $100 a month for the services.
“Giving Floridians back more of the money they earn in tax cuts is the best thing we can do to keep Florida’s economy growing,” Scott said in a prepared statement.
The package, which also includes a 10-day tax “holiday” in August for back-to-school shoppers, is projected by state economists to cut revenue by $372.4 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The savings are expected to reach $428.9 million, as the package includes two years of tax credits for housing opportunities for people with special needs and will allow businesses within soon-to-be eliminated enterprise zones to continue receiving available tax breaks if they have already entered into contracts.
House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat who was the lone opponent of the measure in the House, said the money would do more if spent for education, health care or other needs.
“That was a vote that I really felt was bad timing,” Pafford said after the House vote Monday. “We’re in special session because we have major budget issues.”
Only two Democrats in the Senate joined Pafford in opposing the tax-cut package.
Cuts to taxes and fees, with a focus on reducing the communications-services tax, were one of Scott’s priorities for the regular legislative session.
Scott, who campaigned in 2014 on reducing taxes by $1 billion over the next two years, had asked lawmakers to reduce taxes and fees this spring by $673 million, with a request for the communication-services tax to go down by 3.6 percentage points. Under that proposal, the savings on a $100-a-month cable TV bill was projected at $40 a year.
The proposed cuts were included as part of an ad campaign run in the spring by “Let’s Get to Work,” a political committee backing Scott.
“Now, working with your legislators, we plan to cut taxes by half a billion dollars. We believe you can spend your money better than government can,” Scott said in the 30-second statewide ad titled “On the Move.”
However, the House, before abruptly ending its regular session, was unable to get the Senate to approve a $690 million tax-cut proposal that included the larger cut to cell-phone and cable-TV bills.
With lawmakers having to look for money to meet increased health care costs, the overall tax cuts were reduced during the special legislative session, which started June 1 and is expected to end Friday.
Through the changes, the permanent reduction in the communications-services tax was set at 1.73 percentage points.
The package provides tax exemptions on certain agricultural uses, large boat repairs, gun-club memberships, school extracurricular fundraisers, aviation fuel for certain flight-training academies, and on motor vehicles purchased overseas by internationally deployed service members from Florida.
There are tax credits for businesses involved in Brownfields cleanup and a one-year extension of the Community Contribution Tax Credit Program, setting aside $19 million for projects that offer housing opportunities for special-needs individuals and low-income households.
The measure also will eliminate sales taxes on college textbooks for a year and establish a 10-day sales-tax holiday starting Aug. 7 on clothing under $100, school supplies that cost $15 or less and the first $750 of personal computers purchased for non-commercial use.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida