Gov. Rick Scott is proposing big tax cuts during the 2016-2017 fiscal year -- to the tune of $1 billion -- but state lawmakers aren’t sure if Scott’s proposal will actually fly.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, held a pre-legislative press availability Friday in Tallahassee, and said explained that while the governor’s tax cut program is certainly ambitious and definitely an option for Florida, it might not be entirely possible.
Gov. Scott has pledged to slash taxes over the next two years, telling Floridians he’d cut taxes by $1 billion over the next two years. The recurring tax cuts would include big cuts for businesses. One cut in particular, the corporate income tax, which retailers and business manufacturers pay, would save businesses around $770 million a year in taxes.
Scott is also pushing for a 10-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school items which occurs before every school year. A similar holiday, which would last nine days, would occur before hurricane season.
Scott would also propose tax cuts for college students, extending a sales tax break on college textbooks for a year.
Commercial rents would also see breaks as part of Scott’s plan -- the sales tax on commercial rents would decrease from six percent to five percent, which would save around $339 million over a two year period.
But the plan, despite its good characteristics, might just not be possible, Crisafulli said, especially when it comes to the sales tax holidays.
"Is a billion dollars in full off the table? No, it’s not. The reality is, though,We have to sit down and do the math on the proposed budget and find out where we’re going to land,” said Crisafulli on Scott’s $79 billion budget proposal for the 2016-2017 fiscal year Scott submitted last month.
The House Speaker said the legislature would try to focus on corporate tax breaks and the commercial lease tax cut.
Scott’s budget proposal still has to be reviewed by the Florida Legislature, which has been reluctant to pass some of the governor’s tax breaks since they heavily focus on businesses rather than individuals.
Although Florida will see a $635 million surplus next year, it doesn’t mean the path is necessarily entirely paved for Scott’s tax cut plan. Florida will have to use a majority of the surplus money will be put towards paying for Florida’s public school students and college students and a larger number of Medicaid cases.
Complicating matters is the need to pass a new gambling deal, which will undoubtedly ruffle feathers between Gov. Scott and state lawmakers, who aren’t entirely onboard with Scott’s recent deal with the Seminole Indian Tribe which would pump $3 billion into state revenue over the next seven years and expand gambling in South Florida.
"I can’t sit here and tell you for sure that, as it’s written, it has no chance," Crisafulli said. "Is it unlikely? Yeah, it’s very unlikely, but there are some things that members have started talking about that they want to tweak.”
The regular legislative session, when legislators will begin hammering out a state budget, begins Jan. 12.