A House panel approved a tax cut plan worth $1.4 billion, mostly aimed at consumers but with a sizable cut in business rent taxes, which includes many of the provisions of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recommendations.
But the plan doesn’t include DeSantis’ call for a one-year sales tax exemption on household items under $25, including laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap and more.
That provision would have saved consumers $138 million, but House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, said there were concerns about having to extend the cut into future years, reducing available revenue. Some of those items, though, would be exempt during the two-week disaster preparedness sales tax holiday, set to run from May 27 to June 6.
“We tried to look at how much recurring revenue it would be and what that would do in the out years,” McClain said. “We wanted to be cautious in our recurring revenue, how we used it. We wanted to be judicious with it.”
DeSantis’ idea to have a one-year sales tax exemption on pet food, saving pet owners $170.2 million, and a permanent sales tax exemption for over-the-counter pet medications worth $33.6 million, is not in the House plan either.
The plan does include a cut to the business rent tax, from 5.5% to 4.5% for 13 months.
Due to a law passed in 2021, the tax is already set to be cut to 2% once Florida’s unemployment compensation trust fund, which was depleted during the COVID-19 pandemic, is replenished to its pre-pandemic levels, which is projected to happen in August 2024. The one-year cut before that happens will save businesses an estimated $394.4 million.
The House proposal (PCB WMC 23-02) was passed unanimously in the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.
Other parts of the plan, which were also in DeSantis’ proposal, would install a permanent sales tax exemption on baby and toddler products, including clothes and diapers, saving parents $163.3 million per year, as well as on dental hygiene products worth $43 million per year.
There’s also a permanent sales tax on gas stoves, which will save buyers $6.8 million, and a “Freedom Summer” which will give consumers a sales tax break on tickets to sporting events, movies, museums, concerts, plays and other cultural events between May 29 (Memorial Day) and Sept. 4 (Labor Day).
A slew of sales tax holidays on select items are also part of the bill, including two separate back-to-school sales tax holidays on clothing items worth $100 or less, school supplies worth $50 per item or less and personal computers worth $1,500 or less.
The holidays would run from July 24-Aug. 6 and Jan. 1-14, 2024. Consumers would save an estimated $173.3 million. DeSantis also included those pieces in his tax cut proposal.
“We are grateful to the Florida House for proposing meaningful tax relief to Florida families and encouraging shoppers to support their local Florida retail stores,” said Scott Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.
“These tax-free holidays and tax exemptions help hard-working families save on essentials. Floridians can stock up at their local retail stores, which in turn supports local jobs and their community.”
The Senate also briefly discussed some of its plans for tax cuts, although a bill hasn’t been released. Senate Finance and Tax Committee Chairman Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican, discussed “draft concepts” for the Senate’s plan. Those include reimbursing local governments affected by cuts to property taxes given by the Legislature to residents in the path of Hurricane Ian, a permanent sales tax exemption on firearm safety products and a reduction in the business rent tax.
“I’m going to push for as much tax cuts as possible because I personally just want to keep it in the hands of the people who pay the taxes,” Ingoglia said. “My goal is to be as aggressive as possible.”
The House and Senate will negotiate a final tax cut plan during budget negotiations.
Florida Politics reporter Gray Roher authored this post.