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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 13, 201112:00 PM EST

Scott pitches more business tax cuts

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by: Brandon Larrabee The News Service of Florida

A new drive to reduce the number of businesses paying the corporate income tax and tangible property taxes will headline Gov. Rick Scott’s legislative agenda, even as state lawmakers face a budget shortfall pegged at $1.3 billion and growing.

In a visit to Central Florida to unveil his economic agenda, Scott said he would ask lawmakers to double the corporate income tax exemption to $50,000, dropping 25 percent of the companies that now pay it from the tax rolls.

After Scott’s original plan to cut the tax rate went nowhere last year, the Legislature instead approved a measure increasing the exemption to $25,000.

Under that change, about half of Florida businesses already pay no taxes.

Scott also proposed a $50,000 exemption from the tangible personal property tax on businesses, allowing 150,000 of the 300,000 companies that now pay the levy to avoid it. That would require a constitutional amendment for voters in 2012.

“One of the most important things Florida can do to attract businesses, and in turn jobs, is to create a tax environment that welcomes business growth and encourages investment in our state,” Scott said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.

Scott also said he would push to turn Florida’s unemployment system into a “re-employment system” by requiring some workers to undergo job training while receiving benefits.

He also touted proposals to tighten oversight of the state’s workforce boards; improvements in the state’s deep-water ports and transportation system; and pushing universities to focus more on degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Scott is scheduled in Jacksonville today to tour the Aviation Center of Excellence at Cecill Field.

The last goal already has drawn criticism from educators and others concerned with Scott’s questioning the value of some degrees, but the tax plan could run into resistance as lawmakers try to tackle a budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year that could top $2 billion.

House Speaker Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park) embraced the plan.

“I look forward to working alongside Governor Scott and my colleagues in the Florida Legislature during the upcoming session as we strive to meet our shared goal of reducing the tax burden on Florida families and businesses, eliminating burdensome regulations, and implementing thoughtful public policy reforms that will foster both a business climate ripe for private sector job creation and a skilled workforce ready to meet the needs of a global economy,” Cannon said in a statement following the announcement.

Calling Scott’s plans “ambitious,” Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R-Merritt Island) was more measured in his response.

Haridopolos, who was at times openly skeptical of Scott’s plan to reduce the corporate tax rate last year, made no specific reference to the new tax-cut plan in his reaction to Scott’s plans.

“In the coming months and throughout the 2012 Legislative Session, we will work closely with the governor in order to implement measures that will continue to provide stability and predictability to our state’s business owners and entrepreneurs, as well as pursue an agenda that is focused on job creation and economic development,” he said.

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