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'Awesomer' $105 Million Tax Cut Package Headed To Scott

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) - A $105 million tax cut "patchwork of awesomeness," filled with sales-tax holidays and discounts on pet foods, college meals and cement mixers, is headed to the governor.

The House and Senate unanimously approved the remainder of a tax package that fills out Gov. Rick Scott's requested $500 million in election-year cuts late Friday night, just before the regular session ended shortly after 10:30 p.m.

Scott bragged about the tax cuts that include the sales-tax holidays that will "let Floridians better protect their families for hurricanes and better prepare our students for the classroom."

Scott has already signed into law the centerpiece of his request, a nearly $400 million rollback of vehicle registration fees that were increased in 2009. That change, expected to save motorists between $20 and $25 per vehicle, goes into effect Sept. 1.

"This is an extraordinary year. Let's think about what we accomplished. $500 million back in Florida families' pockets," Scott said Friday night.

Melbourne Republican Rep. Ritch Workman had called his Finance and Tax Committee's tax cut plan (HB 5601) a "patchwork of awesomeness" when first approved by the House on April 3. On Friday, he labeled the two-day old deal struck with the Senate as "awesomer."

The tax cuts feature three sales-tax holidays, beginning with a May 31through June 8 tax exemption on hurricane-preparedness supplies. That will be followed by a three-day, back-to-school tax holiday at the start of August on clothes, school supplies and some electronics. The third holiday will lift sales taxes on energy-saving appliances for three days in mid-September.

Combined, the holiday periods are projected to save $36.9 million for Floridians.

The tax package also includes a permanent elimination of the taxes on college meal plans, expected to save $11.6 million a year. Meanwhile, a therapeutic pet food discount, on food only available from a licensed veterinarian, is expected to save $2.5 million a year. Both had been part of individual bills that failed to advance this session.

Also in the package: a permanent sales-tax exemption for car seats and bicycle helmets for kids; an expansion of the New Markets Tax Credit program for investments in low-income communities; a temporary lifting of sales taxes on the purchase of cement mixers; a measure that would reduce by 20 percent the insurance premium tax on Florida-based bail bond premiums; and a projected $14.7 million savings through a community contribution tax credit that benefits Habitat for Humanity.

The package also allows local tourism development councils to share private information and distributes $5 million from cigarette taxes to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. The proposal also gives Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam his request to shave the sales taxes that businesses pay for electricity and shift a portion of the remaining revenue to the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) program, which helps with school construction and maintenance.

"This legislation will provide schools with the long-term, sustainable means they need to help our kids succeed," Putnam said in a release.

This report is by Jim Turner with The News Service of Florida.


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