Ritch Workman: Tax Cut Might Not Be $500 Million
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The chairman of the House subcommittee overseeing the state's tax laws said Thursday the panel isn't necessarily bound by the $500 million cut in taxes and fees that Gov. Rick Scott has proposed.
"I appreciate what the governor put out there," Workman said. "I think he's got a good round number. But we could see a tax break bigger than that, or, depending on what's available when the final numbers come out, it may very well be smaller."
Speaking after an initial meeting to discuss tax-cut ideas, House Finance and Tax Chairman Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, said the final number would depend at least in part on the size of the estimated state budget surplus when lawmakers sit down to craft a final package.
Workman said that, at least for now, he is working with the $500 million figure in mind. But he said a final decision on the size of any tax package would be made later. Scott has made reaching the number the centerpiece of his agenda for the 2014 legislative session, the last one before he faces re-election.
State economists have projected a surplus of $845.7 million for the budget year that begins July 1, though $449 million of that is expected to be one-time money. Also, the most recent estimate was calculated before the partial shutdown of the federal government.
Workman said he would like to find a way to lower several taxes instead of trying to eliminate one or two levies.
"At some point, I want some kind of breakdown where four or five or six different taxes are lowered so that every single citizen can be touched by it," Workman said.
The tax panel spent almost two-and-a-half hours Thursday listening to ideas floated mostly by business groups and Realtors, who pushed for reductions in the $1.5 billion sales tax on commercial leases. Some lawmakers seemed skeptical of getting rid of the tax, at least at first.
"I don't think this committee is ready to just have that evaporate tomorrow," said Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres.
Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne Beach, pressed a Chamber of Commerce official on whether there was any actual impact from Florida being the only state to charge the tax.
"Being in the business community, have you heard one company decide not to move to the state of Florida because of that sales tax on commercial rental?" Tobia asked.
The official said no. But Bob Zegota, who works in real estate, pushed back in his comments to the committee.
"I can tell you on behalf of 35,000 commercial brokers, we all have experienced that at least once," Zegota said.
Randy Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Retail Federation, said lawmakers should look at continuing to hold a sales-tax holiday on school supplies, and perhaps revive one on items used to prepare for hurricanes. And he asked the panel to look at lowering the communications services tax, brushing off concerns that there wasn't much of a public clamor for the proposal.
"The reason you don't hear much about it is people don't understand their phone bill," Miller said.