Senate Pres: Budget Will Have Tax Cuts, But Probably Not Scott’s
April 28, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott once again said Wednesday that he was confident that lawmakers would eventually approve his plan to begin phasing out the corporate income tax before they leave Tallahassee next week. Legislative leaders once again all but said Scott wouldn’t get it.
In what is shaping up as one of the more intriguing back-and-forths between the new governor and the Legislature, Scott continued what has been a daily refrain that, despite all signs to the contrary, his proposals would find new life soon enough.
“We have a great speaker. We have a great Senate president,” Scott said. “They believe the same way I do that tax cuts are important to get our economy going again. So I’m convinced that we’ll have them.”
Still, no such move appeared forthcoming as lawmakers began to huddle in House-Senate conference committee aimed at banging out agreements between the two chambers’ versions of the spending plan.
Sen. Don Gaetz, the Niceville Republican who chairs the conference committee handling tax issues, compared Scott’s drive for the tax cuts with one of his personal goals.
“I continue to express confidence that I will lose 20 pounds,” he said after the committee’s original meeting.
Asked what that might mean about the realism of the governor’s hopes, Gaetz said: “I had a salad for dinner last night.”
The agreement on the broad contours of a budget deal reached earlier this week by House and Senate leaders call for $136.1 million for economic development and tax cuts, but only $30 million of that is recurring.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos (pictured) said he did expect tax relief and perhaps a rollback of some of the fee increases lawmakers approved in 2009. But the corporate income plan was notably missing from his list of possible targets: driver’s license fees, research and development tax cuts and a back-to-school sales tax holiday.
“I’ve had very few people in my career come to me and say the reason why they did not come to the state of Florida is because of the corporate tax rate,” he said. “But the governor, again, is an equal partner, and we want to try to help him along in his process with his priorities.”
Lawmakers were close to a deal on some of the tax-cut provisions after an evening meeting of the committee handling those issues.
Haridopolos said that the size of the relief offered by lawmakers would likely be more than $30 million in recurring money, though he didn’t specify how much. He noted that lawmakers were initially skeptical about their ability to do any tax cuts in the session, focusing instead on closing a $3.75 billion budget shortfall without raising taxes.
“If we can get to some tax relief, we’d be very pleased with our progress,” Haridopolos said.
But the Senate president said that even without a deal on the business tax, which was one of the central planks of Scott’s economic plan in his 2010 campaign, the governor could consider his first session a success when it came to gaining ground on his campaign pledges: To set Florida apart from other mega-states like California and Texas in terms of its economic development climate.
“I think his No. 1 campaign promise is to be seen as the most business friendly state in the country,” Haridopolos said.
By Brandon Larrabee
The News Service Florida