State Politics

Lawmakers proud of pro-business approach by Florida Legislature

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Local legislators bragged about the pro-business bills they helped to pass during this year's state legislative session, touching on everything from auto insurance reform to business income tax reduction.

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, said during a legislative wrap-up Thursday that his aim was to create a "pro-business environment."

"And I think this Legislature, as you have seen in the past two years, has really taken a lot of steps forward to make Florida the best place to do business," he told the crowd gathered at the Polo Grill for a luncheon sponsored by the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange and the Homebuilders Association of Manatee-Sarasota.

As a member of the House Finance and Tax Committee, Steube supported a business tax reduction, which was part of economic development legislation signed into law last month by Gov. Rick Scott.

The measure doubled the amount of business income exempted from tax from $25,000 to $50,000, Steube told the group.

"The governor said, 'Just phase that out,'" said Steube, predicting eventually business income tax in Florida will no longer exist.

Companies paid nearly $2 billion in state income tax last year, about 8 percent of all revenue collected.

The economic-development package included more than $1billion in tax cuts for businesses during the next three years, including broad cuts in the unemployment tax and targeted reductions for manufacturers, private-plane repairers, and fruit and

meat packers.

State Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, asked for feedback from the group on any issues they might want to see dealt with next year. He noted that the Legislature's aim, in dealing with a tight budget, was not to reduce the level of service for Florida's citizens, but to make government efficient and effective.

Florida Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, received a special ovation from the crowd, since he is retiring later this year as a result of term limits.

State Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said that a $2 billion deficit this year adversely affected Manatee Clerk R.B. "Chips" Shore, with his office suffering an unexpected 7 percent budget cut totalling $405,000.

But Boyd said legislators tried their best to make difficult choices.

He also was proud of auto insurance reform legislation.

Car insurance costs went up 66 percent over the last two years, and would have gone up another 30 percent this year if nothing had been done to halt it, Boyd said.

He attributed skyrocketing costs to insurance fraud, which he predicted would be restrained by a measure passed this year, he said.

"We had to do something because this is the coverage, as you know, that Florida mandates you carry to drive an automobile," Boyd said.

Lobbyist David Ramba rounded out the panel, noting that the local delegation's rookie legislators had made their mark, and would be advancing to leadership positions over time.