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Jax Daily Record Friday, May. 2, 201412:00 PM EST

Hurricane supplies, pet food and college meals in tax cut plan

by: Jim Turner The News Service of Florida

Floridians would get three sales-tax holidays in the coming months, along with a permanent lifting of the tax on kids’ bicycle helmets, college meal plans and special diet food for pets, under a wide-ranging measure intended to complete Gov. Rick Scott’s requested $500 million in cuts.

The $105 million package, which emerged from negotiations between the House and Senate, is set to go before both chambers Friday, the final day of the annual legislative session.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said since Florida doesn’t have an income tax, the cuts are the best way to “get money to citizens, directly.”

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 up to $25 per vehicle, goes into effect Sept. 1.

House Finance and Tax Chairman Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, said “splattering” the savings, rather than lumping it all in one or two types of taxes, will have more impact to taxpayers.

If approved by lawmakers and signed by Scott, taxpayers will get their first chance to save with a sales-tax holiday from May 31 to June 8 on hurricane-preparedness supplies.

That will be followed with a back-to-school tax holiday at the start of August on clothes, school supplies and some electronics, and a lifting of 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.

Lifting a sales tax on college meal plans is 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 (HB 5601) doesn’t include a sales-tax holiday on private gym memberships, which had been in the House package.

Also, it doesn’t include an increase in the corporate income-tax exemption sought by


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