Senate Tax Package Benefits Families and Job Creators
Senate Tax Package Unveiled in Final Days of Session
On March 11, 2020, the Senate released its initial version of the 2020 tax package in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The proposed Senate tax package mirrors many provisions of the House tax package and is set to be heard on the Senate floor tomorrow, March 12.
The Senate tax package contains the following Florida Chamber-backed provisions:
• A reduction in the Florida-only business rent tax from 5.5 percent to 5.4 percent;
• A reduction in the state communication services tax by 0.5 percent;
• Reauthorization of the Qualified Targeted Industry Tax Refund program which was set to expire on June 30th without legislative action; and
• Back-to-school and disaster preparedness sales tax holidays.
Additionally, the original Senate proposal included a simplified version of the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) compared to the House tax package, and would have allowed only certain qualified counties to use TDT revenue for water quality improvement projects. An amendment in committee completely removed the language, ensuring TDT funds are only available for what’s currently allowable under state law, such as tourism marketing.
Finally, the Senate tax package contained a rewrite of the House’s proposal to recalculate the property-tax exemption for non-profit hospitals. The Florida Chamber and its members are still reviewing this language to ensure that hospitals are not needlessly targeted.
Initial negotiations with the House shaped today’s tax package, but several unplanned amendments means more work remains between the two chambers to agree on a final product.
Additionally, Appropriations Committee Chairman Senator Rob Bradley warned that the final allocation of money for the tax package may be reduced as budget negotiations continue in the final days of session.
Help Us Make A Difference
How does the Senate tax proposal impact you? Contact Carolyn Johnson and share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florida Counties, Schools Face Higher State Pension Contributions
By Lloyd Dunkelberger, News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — Florida counties will have to contribute an additional $66 million to the state pension fund in the new budget year, according to legislation that has started moving in the Senate.
As a result of a decrease in the assumed rate of investment return on the $160 billion pension fund, counties, school boards, state agencies, universities, state colleges and other government entities will have to increase their contributions in the 2018-2019 budget year to make sure there is enough money to pay retirement benefits in the long term.
The increased payments total $178.5 million, including $66.4 million for county governments, according to legislation (SB 7014) approved by the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee last week.
School districts, whose employees represent about half of the 627,000 active pension participants, will have to contribute an additional $54.4 million.
State agencies will have to contribute another $31 million. Universities will have to contribute $11.8 million and state colleges an additional $4.8 million.
A handful of cities and special districts that participate in the state retirement system will face a $10 million contribution increase.
County governments, which face the largest contribution increase, will have to accommodate the added expense as they shape their 2018-2019 budgets.
‘Water Bills’ Already on the Move in the Senate
The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee is taking action to improve Florida’s waterways. Committee chair Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, has proposed SB 204 to lawmakers. The bill would spend at least $75 million per year on natural spring projects. The bill also budgets for $50 annually for projects restoring the St. Johns River and other side streams.
A recent article, Water Bills’ Already on the Move in the Senate, discusses why Senator Bradley believes this bill is important to securing Florida’s future.
A Senate panel on Monday cleared a ‘water bill’ aimed at cleaning up some of the state’s waterways.
The Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee OK’d the measure (SB 204) with a unanimous vote. Legislative committees are meeting in the Capitol this week, in advance of the 2018 Legislative Session that starts in January.
The bill, by committee chair Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, would approve spending at least $75 million a year on springs projects and $50 million annually on projects related to the restoration of the St. Johns River—the longest entirely within Florida—and its tributaries, as well as the Keystone Heights Lake Region.
Bradley said it’s “incredibly important” that the river “remain healthy”: “It really defines the character of so much of our state.”
But, he added, “there’s a limited pie of dollars and we need to figure out where to put them,” he added, referring to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
Anti-Business Prejudgment Interest Bill Amended, Still Heading to Senate Floor
On March 29, the Florida Senate Rules Committee approved SB 334, sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) by a 10-1 margin. As amended, the anti-business, trial lawyer-backed “prejudgment interest” bill allows interest to be charged on economic damages from the date the injury or tort occurred, not from the date the legal decision was made, as is the current law.
The committee adopted an amendment by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) and Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), which eliminated language that would have allowed prejudgment interest to be charged for attorney fees and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. Despite the amendment’s efforts to more narrowly apply prejudgment interest, the Florida Chamber remains opposed to SB 334. Prejudgment interest will further drive up the cost of personal injury lawsuits against Floridians and force businesses into a “sue-and-settle” position. It also removes existing discretion available to judges and instead mandates prejudgment interest be awarded.
Thank Sen. Latvala
Click here to thank Sen. Jack Latvala, the only Senator to support Florida’s business community by voting AGAINST SB 334 at its most recent committee vote.
Why is “Prejudgment Interest Bad for Businesses?
Watch the video below, and then share it with other business leaders to warn them about the latest sue-and-settle scheme brewing in Tallahassee.
The Senate’s version of the bill, SB 334, will move to a vote on the Senate Floor. The House’s version of the bill, HB 469, has one more committee stop before potentially moving to a vote on the House Floor.
Higher Workers’ Comp Rates Here to Stay?
Earlier this week, in an interview with WFSU, Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) predicted higher workers’ compensation rates in Florida are likely here to stay. According to the news report, Sen. Bradley also said “rate stabilization” was his goal.
While comprehensive legislation should be filed in the Florida Senate soon, Senator Rob Bradley said that overhauling the system may take more than a single session. In the interim, employers will continue to feel the pressure that comes with increased workers’ comp rates.
If You Want the Legislature to ACT NOW to Bring Down Workers Comp Rates, Please Take Action Today:
Send your lawmakers an email urging them to address attorney fees, which account for the majority of the 14.5 percent workers’ comp rate increase and will cost Florida taxpayers $1.5 billion in the first year alone.
Senator Bradley is right that a comprehensive review of Florida’s workers’ comp system is needed. However, in the meantime, the legislature must take action to address out of control attorney fees and stop future rate increases.
Take Action Now
We need you now more than ever! Your lawmakers need to hear from you to believe lowering workers’ comp rates is a priority that must be accomplished during the 2017 Florida Legislative Session. Email your legislators, then send this link to anyone else you know that is impacted by higher workers’ comp rates in Florida.