Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line: Sen. Tom Lee Discusses Florida’s Budget, Tax Cuts and More

“We are really fortunate here in Florida that thanks to the [Florida] Chamber of Commerce and a lot of other people who are moving a pro-business agenda forward, our Governor, we are growing revenues here in our state,” said  Senator Tom Lee, Senate Appropriations Chair. “Asset values are up, unemployment is down, things are moving in the right direction- we have an additional billion dollars this year.”

But while Florida is moving in the right direction, our work is far from over.

“There are a lot of opportunities on how we allocate those resources,” said Sen. Lee. “But we have some challenges in the implementation of Amendment 1, and we have teaching hospitals and hospitals that do a lot of unreimbursed care that are being hit by the decision by the CMS on funding out of Washington, so we have to deal with some of those things.”

While the voters spoke on Amendment 1, concerns still remain on the impact of setting a  budget through constitutional mandates, particularly to programs that also used portions of the document stamps tax, such as Affordable Housing and transportation.

“Some of that money was going somewhere else beforehand so we have to find some way to backfill those programs like Affordable Housing and transportation, both of them have a huge multiplier effect on our economy, they create jobs,” explained Sen. Lee. “As we look to solutions to the problems that we are facing with the low income pool going away in our state, trying to find a way to hold transportation and affordable housing harmless is going to be a huge priority.”

At the Florida Chamber, we believe the Governor’s plan for targeted tax reform is good for our economy and is one solution to budgeting challenges- particularly when it comes to communications services tax and the tax on commercial sales leases. In fact, Florida is currently the only state in the nation that charges a communications services tax.

“There are proposals moving through the legislature on a communications services tax and one related to reducing the tax on commercial leases,” said Sen. Lee. “As a landlord in the commercial real estate businesses, that one has particular affinity to me. Both of them are very broad based, both of them will have sweeping impacts across the spectrum of small business and individuals who pay those taxes, whether they are passed down through businesses or directly on their cell phone bills. The question is really going to become- how much money do we have to spend, so how far down that list of priorities that have been set are we going to be able to buy these tax cuts?”

As Florida’s Legislative Session undergoes its third week, Sen. Lee remains hopeful on Florida’s direction.

“Aren’t we fortunate to be in a state where we are talking about cutting taxes in the context of the national government, that’s talking about raising them?”

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