SARASOTA -- Gov. Rick Scott continued his pitch for $1 billion in business tax cuts at a Sarasota-based manufacturer Wednesday, his third visit to the Manatee-Sarasota area within a week.
Scott made jobs the main focus of his State of the State speech at the beginning of the 2016 legislative session, particularly his quest to get $1 billion worth of tax cuts to Florida businesses through the state budget. He went to Marine Concepts in Manatee on Friday to push that message, as well as to celebrate the state adding more than a million private sector jobs since 2010. He continued in that vein at Octex in Sarasota on Wednesday.
"We're seeing all our industries grow, but we've got to continue to work," Scott said, adding that companies such as Octex were the reason Florida's economy is thriving. "One of the things that's helped them is a few years ago, we worked to get rid of the sales tax when a manufacturer buys equipment, and we put in a three-year moratorium, and we're looking to make that a permanent reduction."
Getting rid of that sales tax and income taxes on businesses, as well as other proposed cuts, will ensure Florida businesses will grow, buy more equipment and hire more people, leading to a better Florida economy, Scott said.
John W. Hoskins, executive vice president of Octex, said tax cuts in Florida helped the company add 47 employees in five years. Of those, 18 employees were added during the acquisition of another business in June 2014. Octex was also looking to hire more engineers over the next year, but the number will depend on how much Octex can save on tax cuts, and on whether those cuts would recur every year.
"It could be three, it could be a dozen," Hoskins said. "It all depends. But we'd very much like that" the tax cuts be permanent.
Hoskins said they had one piece of equipment that cost around $650,000, and taxes on such equipment would be a huge amount of money that the business could invest elsewhere, such as in jobs.
Legislative leaders have expressed support for some of those cuts but not for the full $1 billion package.
Scott also gave three leaders of Octex, a plastics and surgical equipment manufacturer at 901 Sarasota Center Blvd., the Governor's Business Ambassador Award: Hoskins, CEO Jim Westman and CFO Dan Mallon.
Scott was also in Siesta Key on Sunday to tour damage caused by tornados that hit Manatee and Sarasota counties. Early Sunday, a tornado killed two grandparents, Stephen and Kelli Wilson, and injured their son, Stephen, and four grandchildren in Duette. He said the state is assessing the damage to see if it meets thresholds needed to apply for federal assistance.
"The state will do everything it can, but the counties are doing a great job," Scott said.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby