Using a budgetary sleight of hand, Gov. Rick Scott has found a way to keep his promise to cut corporate taxes this year and presented the idea to the Senate on Good Friday. Senate leaders quickly ordered up a meeting of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee but the pricetag -- $333 million this year, ballooning to $1 billion in 2013 -- came with too many questions for the committee. Without .the votes, the sponsor Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, postponed the bill indefinitely. The committee is not scheduled to meet again.
The bill gradually reduces the corporate income tax over seven years, beginning with the $333 million cut in January 2012, taking cigarette tax revenues destined for health care and using it for tax breaks. In future years, the tax cut would occur only if there was a pre-determined revenue growth.
The effort is more proof that Scott is not ready to back off his promise for tax cuts. The formula, written by the governor's staff and presented to the Senate, would allow legislators to postpone the budget pain by allowing for the tax cuts to come off any future increase in revenues. What was hard for lawmakers to swallow, however, was the piece that took money from the Agency for Health Care Administration budget to pay for the corporate income tax scholarships and other programs lost from the budget this year.
Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said that the idea is in trouble, but not yet dead. Whether it is revived will be decided by Senate President Mike Haridopolos, whose offices are on the Capitol's fourth floor. "We got this on Friday and there hasn't been enough time to put this together,'' she said, noting they haven't had a chance to review the impact on the current budget, the unintended conseqences, and on school vouchers which depend on corporate tax revenue.
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"We could still take this language and put it on another corporate bill that may be moving but that'll all be decided on the Fourth Floor,'' she said. But, finding the money "is beyond difficult. It's not there."
“We could have had the votes to pass it but frankly I don’t think we want to pass it unless we’re clear about what it is we’re passing,'' she said. "We want to be supportive of the governor’s top priority but we want to be sure what it is we’re passing. When a strike all was submitted Friday and today’s 8 a.m. on Monday, I don’t think you rush a bill that’s hundreds of millions of dollars.”