The Florida Legislature has reached the halfway point of the 2016 legislative session and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce remains diligent in monitoring legislative activity. State legislation has a big impact on local businesses. A group of business leaders traveled a few weeks ago with the chamber to the Florida capital to advocate for our top priorities. We had very productive meetings in Tallahassee lobbying our legislators, state chief financial officer, agency heads and the governor.
The chamber's priorities appear on track as these items progress through the legislative process. These include phase out of the business rent tax, elimination of the manufacturing equipment sales tax, additional funding for Enterprise Florida, increased per-pupil funding for K-12 public schools, the protection of transportation funding and local transportation projects.
Florida is the only state in the country that collects a tax on commercial leases (business rent tax), currently at a rate of 6 percent on the total rent charged, which may include ad valorem taxes, insurance, common area maintenance, customer parking or janitorial service. This rent tax places a significant burden on local businesses, requiring them to pay thousands of dollars a year more than they would in other states. We strongly urge our legislators to lower business rent taxes and we are pleased that both the Senate and the House support the chamber's positions on this issue and the elimination of the manufacturing equipment sales tax. These topics are important to the growth and attraction of businesses in Florida.
Enterprise Florida has been an important partner to the chamber and the Economic Development Corporation in strengthening our business climate. Our local economy has benefitted significantly due to the services offered through Enterprise Florida in helping to relocate corporate headquarters to our area, including Feld Entertainment, It Works Global and Air Projects, to name a few. We believe increased funding for this public-private partnership is needed to maintain momentum and successfully market Florida as the place to do business.
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Our public school system continues to be a top priority for the Manatee chamber. We want to prepare our children through quality educa
tion and equip a workforce to meet current and future needs. The chamber is a strong advocate for increased per-pupil funding for K-12 public schools in line with 2002 levels.
We all remember the headline "Stuck in Traffic? Get Used To It." Well, we don't think you should get used to it. That's why a top priority for us is to protect transportation funding in the state and ensure our local projects remain funded in order to improve our transportation grid and relieve traffic congestion. Our meeting with FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold and his staff gave us comfort that funding is secured for our local transportation projects.
The chamber works every day to protect local businesses and we will continue to advocate on behalf of our more than 2,100 business members to end burdensome regulations and promote smart policies that will strengthen businesses and improve our quality of life.
Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at BobB@ManateeChamber.com.